Monday, November 9, 2015

A Celestial Sister Act

Bless us, oh Lord, for these Thy gifts which we are about to receive. And yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of no food, I will fear no hunger. We want you to give us this day, our daily bread. And to the republic for which it stands, and by the power invested in me, I pronounce us ready to eat. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. 

It's a good time to be Catholic thanks to a fun production of Sister Act at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.

If you haven't seen the excellent film version starring Whoopi Goldberg (for shame! It's awesome, make sure you watch it ASAP), here's what goes down: A worldly woman named Deloris accidentally witnesses her boyfriend Curtis killing someone. To keep Deloris quiet, Curtis tries to kill her, but she manages to escape to a witness protection program. Thinking it the least likely place Curtis will look, the police hide Deloris in a convent until the she can testify at the trial. Never a wallflower, Deloris proceeds to reinvigorate the church from top to bottom by bringing its lackluster choir into the disco soul era. Religious witticisms fly all over the place, Deloris gets too famous for her own good, and everything turns out well in the end.
Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatre
Sister Act is a little slow to start, but once it picks up, you'll be swept away. The second act packs a big musical punch with some beautiful solos, including a powerful rendition of "The Life I Never Led" by Britta Ollmann as Sister Mary Robert, and an emotional performance of "Sister Act" by Regina Marie Williams.
Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.
This production suffers from some minor miscasting, in particular the relegation of the excellent Kasano Mwanza to the proverbial corner as the quiet cousin TJ. Mwanza's gorgeous voice and comedic tendencies would be better served in a more central role, perhaps the hidden gem of policeman Lt. Eddie Souther. Reginald Haney has a more Barry White-esque voice and does a serviceable job in the role, but it would really shine with Mwanza's charm.

Some casting, however, is spot-on, such as Regina Marie Williams in the title role as Deloris Van Cartier. Williams always shines and this is no exception. Her emotional range fits beautifully into the subtle changes Deloris undergoes the longer she remains in the convent, and her beautiful voice fits the songs well as long as she doesn't try too hard to over-sing. Keith Rice, a perennial favorite, is hilarious as the Monsignor.
Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.
It's a pleasure to see a rare production featuring a cast of almost all women, and for that reason alone Sister Act holds a special place in the theatrical pantheon. This ensemble clicks well, hitting every nun stereotype you could expect. The hip hop nun (Seri Johnson) and Hairspray-ed soul sister (Therese Walth) performances are probably the standouts, but each actress does a fine job.
Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.
Sister Act is a family friendly show that reminds us all that, rather than complain about the state of the world outside our walls, we would be best served by channeling our energy into making the world outside a better place. We are always best served when connecting positively with others and embracing them with true empathy. It's a lovely lesson as we enter the holiday season, and one we can all do best to keep in the front of our minds.

Sister Act runs at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre through February 27. Click here for tickets or more information. 

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