Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Sister Act" at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

While I was off in NYC seeing a bunch of Broadway musicals last week, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres opened a new show. I missed the Sister Act press night (the best press night in town), but they kindly let me attend last night - on my birthday! (I can now cross the Chan emcee wishing me a happy birthday off my bucket list.) Director Michael Brindisi has once again brought us a polished production, and one that's a lot of fun and also has a beautiful heart, I enjoyed it as much as anything I saw on Broadway last week. This is a relatively short run for the Chan (just four months), so make your plans now so you don't miss this wonderful and heart-warming musical. If you need more reasons to see it, I've got ten - read on.

Ten reasons to see Sister Act:
Regina Marie Williams and Norah
Long (photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp)
  1. If you liked the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg (click here for plot summary if you haven't seen it), you'll be pleased at how well it translates to the stage. Movies with music at the heart of them are a more natural fit to musical adaptation; the songs don't seem forced but fit the characters and story organically. Plus, all of the humor and fun of the movie is present on the stage.
  2. Whoopi Goldberg's shoes are hard ones to fill (not to mention Patina Miller's), but Regina Marie Williams does so with aplomb in her Chanhassen debut. She's got the charisma, comic timing, and vocal chops needed for the role
  3. Norah Long is as serenely beautiful playing Mother Superior as she was playing Mother Nature. She is the grounding and calming center of this whirlwind, but with a dry wit and a heavenly voice.
  4. The supporting cast and ensemble is, to quote the show, "Fabulous, Baby!" with familiar faces and newcomers to the Chanhassen stage. To name just a few - Andre Shoals as the bad guy you love to hate; his super smooth back-up trio consisting of Mathias Anderson, Daniel S. Hines, and Kasano Mwanza; Chan fave Keith Rice as the Monsignor; and all of the wonderful women playing the sisters (most notably the powerfully voiced Britta Ollmann and the hilarious Therese Walth and Seri Johnson).
  5. Alan Menken's original score is filled with up-tempo numbers and retro '70s disco, soul, and
    Motown that'll have you moving and grooving in your seat, thanks to the dynamite onstage band directed by Richard Long.
  6. Like the score, the costumes are also pretty '70s-tastic, with bell bottoms, wide collars, platform shoes, and sparkling habits (costume design by Rich Hamson).
  7. There are singing nuns on stage. But not only do they sing, they also dance, crack jokes, and embody a beautiful and inspiring spirit of sisterhood, faith, and joy.
  8. Someone brings you dessert at intermission. What's better than that?!
  9. The Wanted poster on the police department set is a photo of Star Tribune theater critic Graydon Royce, a fun inside joke (and maybe it worked - he gave them a great review).
  10. The show is truly joyous and an all around good time, but might also bring tears to your eyes with it's message of faith, sisterhood, community, and standing with the ones you love in the face of danger and fear. And on a day when yet another brutal, deadly, senseless mass tragedy occurs, sometimes this is exactly what you need to cling to and remind you of the good that is possible in the world.
Sister Act continues at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres through February 27.

Deloris (Regina Marie Williams) leads the nuns in song
(photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp)