McLean High School
Strobe lights, glitter, and fog machines in a convent? When an aspiring musician meets a struggling nunnery in St. Andrew's Episcopal School's Sister Act, hilarity and chaos ensue as the unlikely combination finds the power to raise their voices.
Sister Act was originally a 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg before being adapted into a musical. The show, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and followed by a book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, opened on West End in 2009 and on Broadway in 2011. It follows Deloris Van Cartier, who is striving for stardom and finally ready to leave her restrictive boyfriend, Curtis...when she finds him and his gang shooting another man. After informing the police, where Deloris is reacquainted with her childhood friend, "Sweaty Eddie", she is hidden in a nunnery for protection. Forced to trade her shimmering pink boots for a black nun's habit and become Sister Mary Clarence, Deloris finds herself leading an unexpected journey, but tables are turned when she realizes her love of singing might be exactly what the convent needs.
Inspiring the nuns to get the rafters ringing was Ella Douglass, playing Deloris. While the role may seem all glitz and glam, Douglass did a commendable job allowing emotion to pervade in more solemn moments throughout the show, speaking to the complexity of her character. Douglass also maintained a dynamic chemistry with the other nuns, notably Ashley Webb and Devin Lucas, playing Sister Mary Patrick and Sister Mary Robert respectively. Webb gave an impeccable performance as Sister Mary Patrick, with her vivacious persona and light-hearted comedy winning the hearts of the audience. Meanwhile, Lucas delivered perfectly her character's arc, as her endearing shyness was replaced with a bold and vivacious energy. Both Webb and Lucas impressed with technically sound voices, executing each captivating number expertly.
Other onstage standouts included Leia Terrenzi as Mother Superior, whose deadpan delivery and comedic timing accentuated her annoyance with Deloris. Contrastingly, Colin McLearn as Eddie highlighted his lovable adoration for Deloris, especially impressing with mellifluous vocals in "I Could Be That Guy." Adding dimension to Curtis's villainous gang, Stefen Rincon, playing Pablo, elicited peals of laughter with his energetic movements and rapid Spanish. Finally, the production was tied together by the effervescent nun ensemble, impressing with delightful harmonies, strong chemistry, and high energy.
An array of suitable technical features was also noteworthy. Colored lighting set the mood for each scene, with a memorable eerie blue marking Curtis's club. A phenomenal on-stage orchestra performed difficult pieces without error, bringing spirit to each song. Set pieces were cleverly used in multiple ways, with a lamp becoming a microphone and a table becoming a stage when Deloris daydreamed of fame. Together, the cast and crew put on a thoroughly impressive production.
When the bold and sparkling Deloris attempts to blend in with a group of pious nuns, a convent is turned upside down, but friendship and sisterhood endure. St. Andrew's Episcopal School delivered Sister Act with confidence and pizzazz, creating a performance that will "Take You to Heaven."
Westfield High School
A solemn stone church rests placidly as reverent hymns of praise emerge. Across the dull environment saunters a flashy young woman with sparkling platform disco boots; and thus, St. Andrew's Episcopal School's Sister Act begins.
The musical Sister Act was based on the film of the same title, released in 1992, that starred Whoopi Goldberg. Its success led to a sequel, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. After the ample cinema success, the musical was produced in 2006 and eventually premiered on Broadway in 2011. The musical follows a spunky nightclub singer, Deloris Van Cartier, as she hides away in a convent after witnessing a murder. While in the convent, she grows closer to the other nuns as she helps their musically challenged nun choir until they become something exceptional.
The demanding energy level of Deloris Van Cartier was followed through by actress Ella Douglass within many scenes and interactions. Douglass displayed alluring confidence whether sauntering about in nightclub attire or singing gospel songs with the nuns. As Deloris's relationship with Sister Mary Robert progressed, actress Devin Lucas transformed her character from the shy, innocent, young postulant, to one with a brilliant booming voice and over-powering passion. Eyes were drawn to the bubbly Sister Mary Patrick, played by Ashley Webb. Webb kept up her high energy, alluring bright smile, and precise movements, putting purpose into every motion, word, and exceptional note hit.
The ensemble of lively nuns is truly what makes the show. Each nun had bright expressions, bold dance moves, and adorable interactions with one another. Excitement bubbled up within the nuns before erupting into the exhilarating song "Raise Your Voice." The other energetic ensemble was the three sidekicks to Deloris's criminal ex-boyfriend, played by Cameron Behram, Caleb Eganfrei, and Stefen Rincon. The vigorous womanizers evoked humor with every appearance. Each member of the cast contributed a unique character, regardless of the number of lines. The nuns especially showed unity "just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body" (1 Corinthians 12:12).
Across the stage was a large stone church with an elegant staircase where most of the scenes took place. For the few nightclub scenes, the lights focused on the center and walls moved to transform into the glitzy glam stage for Deloris and her backup girls. The costumes helped display the transformation the nuns had after Deloris's arrival. Starting with a plain black nun outfit, they eventually received a sparkling over-piece to perform their funky fresh hymns.
The theme of the musical, as well as the performance, was overall togetherness. The cast and crew's involvement beautifully created the beloved show as they made believers of the audience, demonstrating, "Yes, I am a part of the terrific Sister Act"