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"Sister Act", with Patina Miller, at the Broadway Theatre

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Sister Act
(Sister Act Website)

Book by Cheri Steinkellner & Bill Steinkellner
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
(Additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane)
Based on the touchstone Pictures Motion Picture, “Sister Act”

At the
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway at 53rd Street

Starring: Patina Miller and Victoria Clark

Fred Applegate, Sarah Bolt, John Treacy Egan
Demond Green, Chester Gregory, Kingsley Leggs
Marla Mindelle, Audrie Neenan, Caesar Samayoa
An Ensemble of Actors/Singers/Dancers

Director: Jerry Zaks
Choreographer: Anthony Van Laast

Scenic Design: Klara Zieglerova
Costume Design: Lez Brotherston
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: John Shivers
Hair and Wig Design: David Brian Brown
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Casting: Telsey + Company
Press: The Hartman Group
Dance Arrangements: Mark Hummel
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Production Supervisor: Steven Beckler
Orchestrations: Doug Besterman
Music Director: Brent-Alan Huffman
Music Supervisor, Vocal, and Incidental Music Arrangements:
Michael Kosarin
Assoc. Producer for Whoop Inc.: Tom Leonardis
Director, Creative Devpt.: Ulrike Burger-Brujis
Exec. Producer: Beverly D. Mac Keen
General Manager: 321 Theatrical Management

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 27, 2011

A few minutes into this expansive, festive, rambunctious musical, I was drawn right in, caught by surprise after a small scene introduction. The lanky model-figured Patina Miller (Deloris Van Cartier), a Philly night club singer with a mob-styled record producer, shows up in gaudy furs and sparkling skirt to practice a song, before gunshots fly, and she backs out from the stage, “I saw nothing, nothing”. Curtis Jackson (Kingsley Leggs), the ringleader, who’d been intimate with Deloris, wants her silent and wants her dead. Deloris makes her way to the police, and, comedy that this is, her longtime admirer, a cop named Eddie Souther (Chester Gregory), takes her home “for safety”. Soon Deloris is taken in by Philly nuns, into a gorgeous, stained glass-windowed cathedral, soon to be bought by “bachelor antique dealers”. Let the games begin. Deloris is dressed like a nun, but it’s still Deloris, and the nuns’ chorale needs fine tuning and a bit of pizzazz. Deloris to the rescue. Mother Superior (Victoria Clark), of dry wit and a dryer heart, will have nothing of nuns rollicking and frolicking to Philly blues, even if the crowds pour in.

Once the plot is set, the music and dance routines run rampant, and the audience roared with delight. Ms. Miller sings and dances with sensational sizzle, her legs as long as the columns of the church. She performs with a winning personality, engaging, enthused, energized, electric. She turns her ensemble of nuns into a chorus line of pulsating black robes, like a Madeline storybook gone jazz. Ms. Clark, as Mother Superior, occasionally lets loose, herself, even more funny, with her self-righteous reserve. She carries her role with distinguished presence and gestural detail. When Cop Eddie has his big dance number, he seizes the stage. In fact, the audience had grown to root for each character, whether to win love, happiness, safety, escape, or prison. We never meet the offstage bachelor antique dealers, but we do meet an array of thugs, nuns, and Monsignor O’Hara (Fred Applegate), who had first taken Deloris in and now needs to save her and his church. His repartees with Mother Superior are infused with bible jokes, as was much of the dialogue. I got some of them (I was brought up in Old Testament only), but the zany gist was always apparent.

Marla Mindelle as Mary Robert, an ingénue nun in resident training, glued herself to Deloris, begging to be taken outside. Ms. Mindelle exuded a captivating, winning persona. Sarah Bolt, as Sister Mary Patrick, and Audrie Neenan, as Sister Mary Lazarus, were both brimming with wit, jokes flying like vaudeville. What was so successful here was the contrast in personalities, each character type cast for uniqueness and appeal. John Treacy Egan, Demond Green, and Caesar Samayoa filled out the cast with dynamic spirit and buoyant physicality. The hugely successful composer, Alan Menken, wrote music that propelled the momentum, with the audience bouncing in its seats. Glenn Slater’s lyrics, Cheri and Bill Steinkellner’s book, and Douglas Carter Beane’s “additional material” kept the mood light and joyous. Rather than mock religion, so tired and seen so often, these writers created jokes and dialogue that could easily draw converts to this cathedral chorale. These nuns had it all, a rose window over their heads and a Mother and Monsignor to pay the bills.

Klara Zieglerova’s pillars, beams, and glass windows, plus a statue of Mary that was uncovered, then silver-coated, were monumental in scope. Even her police station and record studio were cleverly designed. Lez Brotherston’s shiny habits could walk down the runways, with such sparkling sequined patterns. Natasha Katz’ lighting turned the stained glass windows from red, to blue, to gold. Josh Shivers’ sound was fully robust, with no words or notes lost in the mix. He filled the cathedral with flowing tonality. Jerry Zaks directed for comedic timing and expressiveness of gesture and emotion. Anthony Van Laast’s choreography never took the innocence away from the nuns. Cop Eddie’s radiant dance was thrilling. Kudos to all.

Alena Watters, Rashida Scott,
and Patina Miller in
"Sister Act"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Patina Miller and the Company of
"Sister Act"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

The Company of "Sister Act"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Victoria Clark and Patina Miller
in "Sister Act"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at