By Lauren Van Hemert
This weekend Raleigh Little Theatre kicks off their 2018-2019 season with Sister Act.
The show, based on the 1992 movie, follows the trials and tribulations of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe lounge singer turned state’s witness after stumbling on to a murder scene. She is hidden in the Queen of Angels Church for safety, where she assumes the role of a nun, Sister Mary Clarence. The musical opened on Broadway in 2011 and was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Original Score for Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.
The success of this production rides on the petite shoulders of its leading lady, Tyanna West. West irradiates the stage with enthusiasm and verve belting the pop score with such spirit as to raise the roof. She undoubtedly puts the charisma in Charismatic. The ensemble of sisters that make up the church choir is equally as adept and engaging, particularly Averi Zimmermann as Sister Mary Robert, the young postulant who finds her voice (quite literally). And Alison Lawrence as Mother Superior commands the stage with a strong, authoritative presence. She sings her solos “Here Within These Walls” and “I Haven’t Got a Prayer” with the control and vocal clarity of a seasoned professional, and both she and West elevate this show from a good community theater production to one that has glimpses of greatness comparable to the professional touring production that came to Durham five years ago.
The men of Sister Act have their jocular moments (which is kind of the point), including Benaiah Barnes’ (Eddie’s) performance of “I Could Be That Guy” which includes some memorable, scene-stealing, quick costume changes and the hilarious “Lady in the Long Black Dress,” sung by a trio of bumbling thugs out to get Delores, played by the entertaining Orlando Parker, Jr., Luar Mercado Lopez, and Jon Todd.
There are a lot of set changes during this production, which proved to be a challenge for the crew. Some of the scene transitions were sluggish and awkward, and the tech people were often visible, small distractions likely to be ironed out during the show’s run.
Overall Sister Act is a rollicking good time and a joyous start to what’s sure to be a highly spirited season at Raleigh Little Theatre.
Sister Act is now playing at Raleigh Little Theatre, 301 Pogue Street, Raleigh, NC until September 9. Performance times vary; check the website at Raleigh Little Theatre. Find more information about current plays in the Chicago area on our Current Shows page and at theatreinchicago.com.