“Sister Act” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ June 27, 2013


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

The musical “Sister Act,” based on the popular 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film, has been around since 2006.  I’ve seen it twice, both times with original star Patina Miller who just won a Tony for her Broadway “Pippin” performance.  In “Sister Act,” Miller played singer Deloris Van Cartier.  Deloris’ mobster boyfriend wants her killed because she witnessed a murder.  Police hide Deloris in a convent where her stellar vocal pipes become a focal point in an otherwise lackluster nun’s choir.

In both previous experiences with the show, it was star Miller who doomed “Sister Act.”  Her grossly overrated performance paled in comparison to master farceur Goldberg who was a wild hoot in the film.  Miller lacked Goldberg’s comic style and her vocal performance didn’t compensate.

I have yearned to see “Sister Act” without Miller and the national tour at ASU Gammage through Sunday (June 30), stars the superior Ta’Rea Campbell.  Everything about Campbell’s performance sparkles.  First and foremost, Campbell appears to have fun playing Deloris so she brings the show a breathe of wild and infectious fresh air.  Campbell sings the Alan Menken score winningly while delivering Glenn Slater’s dialogue with superb comic aplomb.  With Deloris’ upbeat singing style, word gets out fast and the Church which had few patrons initially grows quickly to standing room crowds.

But there are enormous problems with the show.  The wonderfully funny movie did not cry out to be turned into a Broadway musical.  The songs aren’t that good.  No one else in the touring cast is anything but acceptable and Hollis Resnik isn’t even that in the other leading role as the Mother Superior.  Victoria Clark was so much funnier on Broadway.  Here, Resnik walks through the part bringing nothing amusing to the role.  She’s bland and uninteresting where she should shine and standout.  Understudy Erin Henry played postulant Mary Theresa, and she was decent as was Florrie Bagel as hefty Mary Patrick.

One must fault Jerry Zaks’ routine direction which is repetitious and tirelessly boring and choreographer Anthony Van Laast’s dull dances are pretty much back and forth straight lines.

The once three dimensional Broadway and London sets have been synthesized down to lots of blandly painted drops that on opening night did some really strange things suggesting the local stage crew wasn’t really sure of what went where when. 

Oh, all right, I had fun at “Sister Act” but it’s certainly a less-than-perfect musical.  It continues through Sunday, June 30.  For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: C