Sister Act's Spectacle Is Second to Nun

Broadway Grand Rapids Presents Sister Act
DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids
Feb. 4-9, show times at 1, 2, 6:30, 7:30 & 8 p.m.
$32-$72, (616) 235-6285

Back when crop tops were going through their first wave of cool and rollerblades were the rage, a lounge singer became a nun. Not a real-life lounge singer, but Sister Act's Deloris, who discovered that a wimple is a slammin' good witness protection disguise. Played by the hilarious Whoopi Goldberg, Deloris delighted audiences worldwide as she butted heads with Mother Superior and introduced a choir of adorable nuns to up-tempo beats and flawless pitch. Boasting numerous awards and two Golden Globe nominations, Sister Act became one of the most beloved and highest-grossing comedies of the '90s.

Premiering in 2011, Broadway's Sister Act amplifies its filmic source on a grander, glitzier scale. An exquisite backdrop representing stained glass provides an eye-feast of vivid oranges and blues, while a stunning Madonna statue towers and sparkles. In contrast to the traditional garb that often garners penguin jokes, the nun habits pop with bright colors and a generous sprinkling of glitter. Outside the monastery, mushrooming bell-bottoms and poofy hair provide further spectacle.

In keeping with the 'bigger is better' motto, the Broadway musical features 19 original songs scored by Oscar-winning Disney composer Alan Menken. Like the costuming, the music strives to authentically reflect its time period, which was changed to the '70s for the musical.

"The music is amazing," said Ta'Rea Campbell, who plays Deloris. "Audiences don't miss the songs from the movie and are pleasantly surprised ... [The music is] very Donna Summer and Bee Gees inspired. It's a big sound—lots of horns and brass—so very true to the '70s."

Additional elements adding to the musical's impressive scale include a fresh romance storyline for Deloris and a host of new characters who bring on belly-laughs.

"We have the same [movie] characters and a few more that people will be surprised at how funny they are. The thugs have a really funny song—they're stock characters—but I can't give anything away," Campbell said.

Sister Act's other comedic treat is the new choreography, which plays off the 'cool old lady' trope and capitalizes on the humor of the unexpected.

"Audiences are really surprised at how well the nuns move," Campbell said. "You usually don't see nuns shaking their booties, so they will be surprised ... [Sister Act] is funnier than they think it's going to be."

Whatever elements the Broadway production adds to broaden Sister Act's grandeur and scope, love and acceptance still remain at the story's core.

"[Sister Act is about] sisterly love—everyone accepting everyone," Campbell said. "The sisters go to bat for Deloris and she goes to bat for them. Deloris realizes something in them that needs to come out and helps them express it."

Other Performing Arts Events

WMU Theatre
York Arena Theatre, Kalamazoo
Feb. 1-2; show times at 2 & 8 p.m.
$10-$20, WMU students $5, (269) 387-6222

Written by noteworthy female playwrights, this documentary draws on interviews of seven fighters for women's equality. Hailing from countries as diverse as Northern Ireland and Pakistan, the protagonists share the same triumphant story of overcoming obstacles for women's empowerment. Provocative and unflinching, this play is recommended for mature audiences.

Into the Woods
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Parish Theatre, Kalamazoo
Feb. 1, 2, 7, 8; show times at 2 & 7:30 p.m.
$13-$24, (269) 343-1313

A fanciful weaving together of Grimm's fairytales, this Tony Award-winning hit puts a special twist on familiar characters. When a baker and his wife set out to collect items to appease an evil witch, they encounter storybook legends such as Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Cinderella. In this story, however, 'happily ever after' is not a guarantee. Characters must deal with surprising consequences when it turns out their well-known adventures are not yet case-closed.