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REVIEW: Sister Act‘s Triumphant Return (Chanhassen Dinner Theatres)

Delores Van Cartier (Regina Marie Williams, center) “keeps a low profile” while on the run from the mob in Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ spirited revival of Sister Act. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Those darn singing nuns are at it again. Just when you think it’s safe to go back to the convent, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres has revived its spirited 2015 production of Sister Act, complete with most of the original cast. Regina Marie Williams returns to star as Delores – and beleaguer Norah Long’s Mother Superior – over two and a half hours of solid laughs and soulful singing.

“When I Find My Baby” is not about what you think it is. It’s also one of the funniest songs about murder in the musical theatre canon. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Not much has changed this time around the sanctuary. Sure, some costumes have been updated, the staging and timing tweaked, and a few faces replaced – but there was really nothing wrong with Sister Act last time around. Arguably the biggest change is that the soulful murder song “When I Find My Baby” has a different vibe to it, somehow managing to be even funnier than it was two years back.

If you’re not familiar with Sister Act, the story in a nutshell finds would-be star singer Delores Van Cartier (Regina Marie Williams) hiding in a Philadelphia convent after witnessing her mobster boyfriend Curtis (Andre Shoals) off a stool pigeon. Van Cartier naturally sticks out like a rhinestone vest in a funeral home, clashing with Mother Superior (Norah Long) and whipping the convent choir into a musical phenomenon.

While the 1992 film Sister Act is a fine thing, the 2006 stage musical’s soundtrack is far superior, funnier, and often more poignant. In the hands of this vocal powerhouse of a cast, you’re probably going to come home singing the songs. It’s hard not to have your heart go out to Lt. Eddie Souther (Reginald D. Haney) after hearing his heart-strumming rendition of the wallflower song “I Could Be That Guy”. It’s also nigh-impossible not to cheer loudly at Britta Ollmann’s “The Life I Never Led”, a powerful performance that threatened to bring dramatic progress to a halt on opening night with the eruption of applause that followed. Then there are the many diagetic songs during which the convent choir brings the house down, like “Raise Your Voice” and the “Sunday Morning Fever” medley that starts Act II.

Two years may have past since they last opened this show at CDT stage, but Long and Williams have lost none of their show-driving chemistry. Lightning may not strike twice, but this show and cast are still sparkling-full of the electricity that make this show magic.

Delores (Regina Marie Williams, left) goes to confession– well, to the confessional, anyway, with Mother Superior (Norah Long). Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Sister Act plays through February 24 at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres in Chanhassen, MN.

 

Basil Considine

Basil Considine is the Twin Cities Arts Reader‘s Performing Arts Editor and the Senior Classical Music and Drama Critic. Before joining the Arts Reader, he was the Twin Cities Daily Planet‘s Resident Classical Music and Drama Critic and a contributing writer for The Boston Music Intelligencer. He holds a PhD in Music and Drama from Boston University, an MTS in Sacred Music from the BU School of Theology, and a BA in Music and Theatre from the University of San Diego.

http://basilconsidine.org
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