Short North Stage’s “Sister Act” transcends a rocky storyline with solid vocal performances and sympathetic tributes to brotherhood and the power of music.
This changes the scenery and, thankfully, cuts down some of the loaded plot of the popular 1992 film Whoopi Goldberg, moving the story to Philadelphia in 1977 and 1978, allowing for playful disco songs, costumes and choreography, as well. only R&B. Numbers.
The musical follows ambitious nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier (Amber Knicole, lead singer of MojoFlo), who sees her rogue gangster boyfriend Curtis (Dante Banks Murray) kill an associate he believes he blamed on her.
With the help of “Sweaty Eddie” (Joshua Walker), a cop who had a crush on Deloris in high school, the singer hides in a convent attached to a financially troubled church. Although the stern Mother Superior (Chrissy T) is dismayed by Deloris’ antics, the other nuns are charmed by her, as she takes over and transforms the choir, turning it into a musical powerhouse with numbers that trace a thin line between profane and sacred, and attract a huge audience filled with chests.
Knicole has the musical qualities and star power to carry the show, but it’s not exactly a one-woman show. Chrissy T is more than her match, fleshing out what could be a one-note role into a sympathetic one, and the chemistry between Mother Superior and her stray guests founds the show.
Murray is an intimidating villain, who never teases easily, and Walker has a surprisingly devious charm, especially in numbers like “I Could Be That Guy”, where he easily transforms from an anxious backpack to a stylish charmer – then again. Three of Curtis’ henchmen (Jordan Stocksdale, Daniel Lopez, and Carter Minor) make the most of the comedic possibilities of “Lady in the Long Black Dress,” in which they brag about their (questionable) romantic feel.
The many nuns are well differentiated, and a large and competent ensemble fills the stage and creates a festive atmosphere.
While the gaps between songs are dominated by lackluster jokes and overly long chase scenes, musical numbers, thankfully, dominate.
Dionysia Williams’ fun and light-hearted choreography, along with whimsical costumes provided by Bottari and Case, create a nostalgic experience, and music director Jones brings out the best in both a six-piece orchestra, hidden behind the scenes, and in the performers.
A possibly unnecessarily complex set created technical difficulties during the preview performance on Thursday evening.
Although “Sister Act” is essentially a painted by numbers musical, with the finest character development and with songs that hit all the basics required and are often repeated multiple times where different could have been enjoyed, the production Short North Stage powers through these limitations for a crowd pleasing finish.
Under Carignan’s sensitive direction, the characters rediscover humanity, and human comedy, even in the less developed and most stereotypical characters, for a truly gentle and uplifting staging.
In one look
“Sister Act” will run through December 19, then December 30 through January 2, at the Garden Theater, 1187 N. High St. Performances are at 7:00 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Saturdays and 2 afternoons on Saturdays. No afternoon performance on January 1st. Masks and proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required. Please bring ID and have documents ready at the door. Tickets: $ 44 to $ 54. (614-725-4042, www.shortnorthstage.org)