In Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love, some sisters could use a little prayer. The convent’s out of cash — no one’s tithing anymore! — and Mother Superior (a resplendent Cindy Kenny) declares the situation dire.
Enter Chelyce Chambers as Deloris, a nightclub chanteuse with a heart of gold. Deloris witnesses some bad doings by her bad boyfriend, and — you guessed it — has to don a nun’s habit to keep from getting whacked.
(Wait? Wasn’t this a 1992 hit movie starring Whoopi Goldberg? Yup, the same, but now with singing and dancing, because … why not?!)
Sister Act: The Musical, playing at Actors Cabaret, has a fancy pedigree, with music by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast) and an assist on the book from Douglas Carter Beane (maybe best known for another 1990’s hit, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Side note: The world misses Patrick Swayze.)
And this show has plenty of charm.
Director/designer Joe Zingo pumps the production with laughs, from simpleton sight gags to razzmatazz. Costumes are first-rate, and the sets and props — on the tiny stage, so close to the audience we see all the details — are delightfully detailed.
But it’s the performances that make this show shine brightest.
As postulant Mary Robert, Ashley Apelzin brings just the right balance of deer-in-the-headlights and spunk.
Chambers is strong as Deloris, with a silky voice and charismatic stage presence. This was our first time seeing Chambers onstage, and we hope to see more of her.
As Mother Superior, Kenny pulls out all the stops. Kenny has some serious pipes, and she flits around like a mother hen, inspiring all the nuns — there’s a ton of them — with her sagacious melodies.
As an ensemble, the nuns are a spectacle onto themselves. Special mention to Emily Westlund and Larissa Cohoe for their terrific dual work as back-up singers Michelle and Tina.
As Eddie, the good guy, Chad Lowe (Wait, Chad Lowe? — no, different Chad Lowe. Le sigh.) seems a little tentative, but he warms into the role as the show plays out.
Bill Furtick as the Monsignor — with his hiccupping Irish accenting — pretty much steals every scene he’s in.
The show has some bumbling gangsters — about as menacing as the thugs in Home Alone — led by Bruce McCarthy as Deloris’s yucky boyfriend Curtis. It’d be great if McCarthy dialed the mean factor up a bit, so we had something more to push up against, so we felt from the outset there was more at stake.
But no matter — it’s a feel-good, lighthearted affair.
Sister Act: The Musical continues at Actors Cabaret through April 8. Call 541-683-4368 or visit actorscabaret.org for tickets.