REVIEW:  Rejoice in Lyric Stage Company’s ‘Sister Act’

Let the choirs sing!  This Sister Act is one heavenly show stopper.

A lot of films have been cut, shaped and squeezed into the genre of musical, but Sister Act, based on the hit 1992 comedy film starring Whoopi Goldberg, has always been a natural fit.  Featuring a variety of songs re-imagined by a group of amateur nuns, Sister Act is a thriller, musical, and comedy rolled up into one exciting and uproarious package.  

Directed warmly by Leigh Barrett and judiciously choreographed by Dan Sullivan, Lyric Stage Company presents Sister Act live and in person at Lyric Stage Company in Boston, Massachusetts through May 14.  This show is two and a half hours with one 15 minute intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

The Cast of ‘Sister Act’ Photo by Mark S. Howard

What makes Sister Act an ideal fit for a musical is not only does the musical deliver all the hijinks, danger, and the inherent message of the film, but it also expands on its characters through some welcome additional songs.  The music, by Alan Menken, is well suited with the terrain of this already entertaining tale and numbers like It’s Good to Be a Nun, Lady in the Long Black Dress, and I Could Be that Guy particularly enhance the hilarity of each of its extraordinary characters.  The original film inspired Sister Act 2:  Back in the Habit before becoming a musical and there is even talk of a possible Sister Act 3 coming soon to Disney Plus.

Set in 1978 Philadelphia, Deloris Van Cartier, a sparkling depiction by Yewande Odetoyinbo, thinks it is only a matter of time until she is a star.  However, after she witnesses a murder, the police decide the convent is the only place she will be safe.  With blunt and practical Mother Superior at the helm, Deloris has a long road ahead of her.

Cast of Sister Act Photo by Mark S. Howard

Sister Act does a wonderful job rewinding the clock to that era with choreographer Dan Sullivan and Music Director David F. Coleman’s seamless infusion of classic 60s and 70s inspired dance moves to funky, smooth, and uplifting rhythms.   Sparkling body suits, tiger prints, velvet pants, and knee high purple boots are just some of the era trends captured by Kelly BakerJenna McFarland Lord creatively handled Sister Act’s somewhat tricky staging making the most of the space with a versatile two floor set including glimmering disco ball and stained glass columns, though at times the blocking seemed a bit tight. 

This dynamite cast matches and even excels over the original cast.  It is difficult not to compare if one has seen the original film, but not only does Yewande Odetoyimbo’s bright smile resemble Goldberg’s, but the fun-loving and vibrant Fabulous Baby, Raise Your Voice, and Take Me to Heaven depict Deloris’s surefire attitude and superior vocals in this fish out of water story.  The stunning surprise and angst Deloris endures over the course of the musical is a highlight of the show as Cheryl McMahon as Mother Superior looks on.

Cheryl McMahon and Yewande Odetoyinbo in ‘Sister Act.’ Photo by Mark S. Howard

Stepping into actress Maggie Smith’s role as Mother Superior is Cheryl McMahon.  Smith portrayed Mrs. McGonagall in the Harry Potter film series which is one character among many of her stern and practical roles.  Filling Smith’s shoes is no small feat, but McMahon’s comic wit has been proven in various past roles such as in Admissions, Miss Holmes Returns, Steel Magnolias and Grease, and is fabulous herself as wise and unyielding Mother Superior.

McMahon’s Here Within These Walls is a solemn call for tradition, discipline and sensibility which proves Mother Superior will not be easily swayed, but her stellar comic timing is best in I Haven’t Got a Prayer.  Her dour expressions to Yewande’s carefree and aberrant nature are some of the show’s funniest moments.

Kathy St. George and the cast of ‘Sister Act’ Photo by Mark S. Howard

Led by Joelle Lurie as impressive Sister Mary Patrick who oozes the excitement of gleeful Kathy Najimy, the nuns showcase their immediate solidarity and camaraderie with the welcome and borderline sarcastic (even for nuns) It’s Good to Be a Nun.  It’s a hilarious number that brings to light the dynamic and spirited group including Kathy St. George as scene stealing and sarcastic Sister Mary Lazarus and Kira Troilo as young and introverted Sister Mary Robert.  Troilo particularly shines in the soaring and reflective number, The Life I Never Led.  The group’s collective and sweet chemistry is the heart of the show and they bring it in spades.

Kara Troilo and Carolyn Saxon, Amie Lytle, Kathy St. George, Yewande Odetoyinbo, Beth Gotha, Meghan Rose, Kara Chu Nelson, and Joelle Lurie Photo by Mark S. Howard

 Davron S. Monroe is amazing as Eddie, delivering a suave, charming and incredible rendition including a mix of 70s inspired choreography and a few surprises for I Could Be That Guy

Meghan Rose, Carolyn Saxon, Davron S. Monroe and Todd Yard. Photo by Mark S. Howard

Balancing both solemnity and heartwarming charm is Todd Yard as Monsignor O’Hara.  He and the nuns let loose for Sunday Morning Fever.  Yard has handled some serious roles in the past, and it is great to see his wonderful talents as a heartwarming figure.

Beth Gotha, Kathy St. George, Amie Lytle, Meghan Rose, Todd Yard, Kara Chu Nelson, Yewande Odetoyinbo, Carolyn Saxon, Kira Troilo, Joelle Lurie, and Cheryl McMahon Photo by Mark S. Howard

Damon Singletary slays as commanding and menacing Curtis as he stealthily moves across the stage.  With wild hair and mischievous smirk, Jackson Jirard has proven his charm and sleek dance moves in shows like Aint Misbehavin is also a bit of a scene stealer as TJ among the bumbling mobsters which include Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia as Pablo and James Turner as Joey.  Mancinas-Garcia, Turner, and Jirard show off their spot on comic timing, game, and vocals for Lady in the Long Black Dress with each member having their chance in the spotlight.    

Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia,Jackson Jirard, Damon Singletary, and James Turner Photo by Mark S. Howard

Lyric Stage Company presents Sister Act live and in person at Lyric Stage Company in Boston, Massachusetts through May 14.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Leave a Reply