SCHENECTADY — The sound you hear emanating from the crumbling Queen of Angels Cathedral is not that usual wheeze, cough and echo normally wafting through the pews on Sunday mornings. No indeed.
There’s a new sound, a bold sound, a glad sound. Gracious be! It’s the choir and they are “fabulous, baby!”
That’s a refreshing change. Who turned these previously atonal abbesses into the sweet sisters of soul? Why it is nun other (insert groan here) than the new choral director, Sister Mary Clarence. But Sister Mary Clarence is a nun de plume (I will stop now).
For this sister is really that “diva with a fever,” lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier. Forced by the police to hide out with the sisters after unintentionally witnessing her boyfriend whack a mole, Deloris is now a nun on the run. And as part of her penance, she is teaching her sisters how to sing.
Like another well-known musical that features a heroine in a habit espousing the transformative power of music,” Sister Act: The Musical” covers familiar and hallowed ground. Bright colored packages tied up with string and lederhosen crafted from curtains have been replaced with disco moves, leisure suits and a mirrored ball. But the song remains pretty much the same. So, Goodbye Alps and Hello Disco Inferno — everybody dance now, because with “Sister Act” the sound of music never blazed with so much fun.
Twenty-five years ago, the low-budget box office smash “Sister Act” propelled comedian Whoopi Goldberg into international stardom. Ten years ago, Goldberg and her production company turned to composer Alan Menken (“Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast”), authors Cheri and Bill Steinkellner and playwright Douglas Carter Beane (“Xanadu”) with hopes of propelling “Sister Act” into a Broadway smash. While not quite as blessed a success as the film, the musical is still a hoot and hollering good time.
Schenectady Light Opera Company’s current production completely and endlessly entertains — religiously so.
Much of the success of the show is due to the cast – which is exemplary. Dashira Cortes raises the roof as the excitable and energetic Deloris. From her bright and sassy “Take Me to Heaven” at the top of the show to the later more reflective “Sister Act,” Cortes impresses. Timing, vocals, and smiles — it’s all there and it’s all great. As her nemesis Mother Superior, Suzanne Talarico Rucinski is appropriately starchy and stern — don’t cross this head nun — but the actress’s warm soprano hints at the human, superbly coloring the character’s inner conflict to perfection, especially in her Act 2 solo” I Haven’t Got a Prayer.”
In addition to the outstanding leads, there is some great work done by the supporting cast. Elizabeth Corey proves a darling of a drill sergeant as the loud and raucous Sister Mary Lazarus. Allison McArdle is a delightfully daffy Sister Mary Patrick. Christine Meglino as the little nun who could, Sister Mary Robert, offers some stunning vocals on “The Life I Never Led.” Nick Cotrupi, Jason Vengersammy and Joshua Muzzi are wonderful (and perfectly costumed by Connie Rowe Rauhauser) as the bumbling trio of hit men and their Act 2 ballad of seduction, “Lady in the Long Black Dress” is one of the evening’s musical highlights. John Rodney Turner as Eddie, Deloris’ wannabe boyfriend, nearly stops the show cold with “I Could Be That Guy”, a sweet and heartfelt wish delivered with an engaging innocence.
With clever choreography by Trish Scott-Dembling and tight musical direction by music director Adrienne Sherman, the evening moves at a brisk and energetic pace.
Not only was the cast having a hell of good time — that is not sacrilegious — but so was the audience. This is one “act” not to miss. Religious meetings like this seldom have revivals.
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through Sunday, May 13
HOW MUCH: $28-22
MORE INFO: 877-350-7378, www.sloctheater.org
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