Produced by: Hillbarn Theatre
Directed by: Bill Starr
Choreographed by: Jim Ambler
Music direction by: Rick Reynolds
Featuring: Dawn L. Troupe, Beth Anne Wells Viloria, Jessica Maxey, Melissa Costa, Darlene Batchelder, Robert Sholty, Gary Stanford Jr., Jim Ambler, Sheraj Ragoobeer, Sam Nachison, Nick Dale, Rachelle Abbey, Katie Tupper, Olivia Chavez, Lindsay Kelliher, Susan Melanson, Sara Rangel-Murphy, Alexandra Nemchik, Minie Pullon, Arielle Rothman, Kyle Arrozet, Jay Thulien, Nicholas J. Garland, Ray Ross
When: May 4 through May 28, 2017
Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City
Tickets: $28-$48; call 650-349-6411, extension 2, or visit www.hillbarntheatre.org
See an interview with Dawn L. Troupe
in Hillbarn's 'Sister Act'
who has to hide from gangsters in the riotous musical
Is Hillbarn Theatre's production of "Sister Act" a riot? Is the Pope a Catholic? Unequivocally, yes to both.
Warning there are many Catholic jokes in the show, and also a few in this review. You may not laugh at the review, but you certainly will at the show. With music by Alan Menken ("Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid") and lyrics by Glenn Slater ("The Little Mermaid," "School of Rock") the show is based on the movie "Sister Act" from 1992 starring Whoopi Goldberg and it still works well today.
The premise is that singer Deloris Van Cartier, played with unholy gusto by Dawn L. Troupe, witnesses a murder committed by her manager and boyfriend Curtis (Gary Stanford Jr). Fearing for her life, she goes to the police and meets Sergeant Eddie (Jim Ambler), whom she knew as "Sweaty Eddie" in high school. Eddie had a crush on her then and still does. Because she is a key witness she must go undercover for her safety until the trial, so Eddie places her in the Queen of Angels convent, run by the Mother Superior (Beth Ann Wells Viloria) who is not at all happy with the arrangement. "Didn't you take a vow of charity?" asks Eddie. "I take it back," says the head penguin.
As a black nightclub singer with a ‘fro the size of the Empire State Building, she's clearly going to fit right in. But the nuns are fairly innocent (fancy that) and happily accept the newly-named Sister Mary Clarence into their fold. When one of the few meals of the day is served, she exclaims "Food at last! Thank God Almighty, food at last!" But when she complains about the paltry portions, the sisters extol the joys of convent life, singing "It's Good To Be A Nun." Troupe really gets into her role and has a great singing voice, as she shows in "Take Me To Heaven."
Singing is an important part of monastic life, in fact the nuns make a habit of it (ta dum). Unfortunately, even God would have a hard time hearing them, given the mousy, mumbly way they sing. When asked to describe the choir, Mother Superior can only say, "There are no words." Well, as you can imagine, that's gonna change.
Meanwhile Eddie (Jim Ambler) is thinking that maybe this will be his chance of divine love with Deloris as he sings "I Could Be That Guy." Ambler has a rich voice with an extensive range and is a pleasure to hear.
Deloris gradually whips her new "sistas" into shape and as they find their voices, Sunday masses become more, uh, spirited, and start filling up again. The diminutive and painfully shy Sister Mary Robert (Jessica Maxey), a postulant ("Well I never had to stoop that low," says Deloris), starts coming out of her shell and finding her voice. And what a voice. Maxey really has a set of pipes.
The convent was under threat of closure but has now found a new lease of life. Unfortunately, as their singing fame gains them publicity, a spot on the local TV station is seen by one of Curtis's bully boys and they plot to get into the convent and whisk Deloris away. "But how you gonna get into a convent?" one of them asks. Joey (Sam Nachison), TJ (Sheraj Ragoobeer) and Pablo (Nick Dale) detail their skills with women in "Lady In The Long Black Dress," showing off winning pickup lines such as, "You show me your stigmata, and I'll show you mine."
Under Deloris's direction the sisters are now singing so well that they are asked to perform in front of the supreme head ("Johnny Carson? No, the Pope") when he visits the city. But Mother Superior has had enough and feels that Deloris is taking the nuns away from their religious and contemplative path. She must go.
The nuns are disappointed when they find out Deloris's true identity, but she has helped them to find their voices, and in Sister Mary Robert's case, to realize there is more to life outside the convent walls. Eddie decides to confess his love for Deloris and Curtis's trial date is moved up, taking her out of danger.
Excellent dancing, singing and acting got the audience out of their pews and made this offering a near-religious experience with mass appeal. So sit/stand up/kneel down, take up a collection and go see it.
Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org