ALHAMBRA THEATRE AND DINING
A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW BY DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected]
The Alhambra Theatre opened the musical comedy “Sister Act” on September 7, 2016 which will run through October 9. The musical is based on the 1992 hit film of the same name which starred Whoopi Goldberg. Some changes were made during the transition to the stage. Composer Alan Menken, of “Little Shop of Horrors” fame added newly written music, the setting was moved from Reno to Philadelphia, and actress Dawnn Lewis was cast in the leading role. The musical has been a hit from the beginning. It opened at Pasadena Playhouse in California on October 24, 2006 and grossed over one million dollars in just three months.
The Alhambra production was a hit in Jacksonville before it even opened, with all matinee performances sold out for the entire run. The evening performances are selling like hot cakes, so if you want to see “Sister Act,” the best time to call the box office at 904-641-1212 is right after you read this. (Of note, if your options are limited to matinees, you can request to be placed on a waiting list for tickets that may become available due to cancellations).
The plot is easy enough to follow. Nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder by her gangster boyfriend Curtis and winds up hiding in a convent until Curtis can be apprehended and she can provide the testimony needed for conviction. She dons a habit, and joins the convent’s twelve resident nuns in their devotions, which in this case includes a lot of music that has a lot of Deloris’s show business styling. Yes, lots of rousing gospel numbers and lavish synchronized dance routines. These actions are frowned upon by the Mother Superior, splendidly played by long-time Alhambra favorite Patti Eyler, who gets to really show off her vocal talents with “I’ve Got a Prayer.” However, Monsignor O’Hara (Kurt McCall) is delighted by the new direction of his church, since attendance is growing and the collection plate is overflowing.
Things change when gangster Curtis comes to the convent and threatens Deloris and her new friends, but this fluffy high-octane musical does have a happy ending which we will let you discover for yourself.
As usual Producer/Director Tod Booth has assembled an outstanding talented cast with emphasis on great voices. Renée Veronica Freeman is superb as Deloris, a role she is certainly familiar with; she appeared in the same role during the 2nd National and International Broadway Tour throughout the USA and in other parts of the world during 2014. Ms. Freeman started her professional career after college in “High School Musical” here at the Alhambra. Booth recognized her potential and talent and urged her to go to New York. The rest is history, with appearances in national tours, television productions, and regional theatres.
Actor Peter Jackson is picture-perfect as the gangster Curtis. We loved his double breasted off-pink suit with white shoes in Act One and were equally impressed with his gray pinstripes in Act Two. And he delighted the audience with his rich voice during his rendition of “When I Find My Baby.” “Lady In The Long Black Dress,” sung by David Berry, Timothy Ellis, and Brandon Garcia was very funny and was also an audience favorite. Joshian Morales as Eddie, the policeman who hides Deloris in the convent (and later develops a romantic interest in her) is excellent as he sings “I Could be That Guy.”
The nuns at the convent were outstanding as dancers and singers, under the inspired direction of Choreographer James Kinney and Musical Director Cathy Murphy Giddens. The eye-catching costumes by the Costume Crew included habits with gold and red inserts.
The nuns were portrayed by Molly Anne Ross, Aaron DeCicco, Jan Neuberger, Melanie Souza, Rachel Anton, Megan Victoria Stillson, Sophie Leudi, Abigail Cline and Robin Richardson. Rounding out the cast were two nightclub dancers played by Linzy Lauren and Olivia Chernyshev. Travis Gerald Young appeared in several small roles; the most impressive being that of the Pope.
Director Tod Booth has fashioned a swiftly-paced evening you won’t want to miss. Visit alhambrajax.com for additional information and reservations.