Sister Mary Clarence put the fun back in religion in the opening night performance of Sister Act The Musical, a Broadway Across America production, at the Music Hall on Tuesday January 21. Based on the 1992 movie that starred Whoopi Goldberg, the musical features the music of Alan Menken and lyrics of Glenn Slater.
Mary Searcy stepped into the role of Delores Van Cartier the disco diva that witnesses her boyfriend, played by Melvin Abston, commit murder. To keep her safe until the trial Delores is dressed as a nun and hidden in a convent. There she learns what it means to have friendship and family as she turns an apparently untalented choir of black robed nuns to a remarkable choir, or as the title suggests a Sister Act.
In the absence of Ta’Rea Campbell whose regularly charged with the role of Delores, Searcy appeared on stage with exuberant confidence, as if she had been cast in the starring role from the very first performance. Searcy was delightful in the role, demonstrating an outstanding amount of talent in her powerfully strong vocals, dancing, and flawless comedic timing. Not familiar with Campbell’s work, and having heard Searcy, I do not know how the performance could be any more incredible than opening night.
Lynne Wintersteller portrays Mother Superior the strict, suspicious, and controlling matriarch of the convent. Wintersteller is marvelous in the role, showing her grand acting ability as she blows up at the actions of Sister Mary Clarence. She is superb at feeding the straight lines to Searcy who has the audience erupting in laughter. She adds the perfect amount of inflection to her tremendous vocals to show her disdain for the nun-imposter who invades her domain.
Ashley Moniz plays the shy, introverted, obedient Sister Mary Roberts who, though apprehensive at first meeting Sister Mary Clarence, befriends her and confronts the domineering Mother Superior. Moniz is splendid in the role of the young naïve nun-in-training. She has terrific facial expressions and body language and an exquisite voice that delivers a top-notch performance.
The entire cast overruns with talent from the ensemble, to the co-stars and the stars this show keeps the Music Hall rocking from the opening number to the finale. The scenery designed by Klara Zieglerova, the costumes designed by Lez Brotherston, and lighting by Natasha Katz take the production to a higher plane. At the closing of the night’s performance patrons were still in awe, wondering how Eddie Souther, played by Chester Gregory, is changed from his disco outfit back to a police uniform on stage.
Sister Act The Musical runs through Sunday January 26 with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Purchase tickets by calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or at the Music Hall at 301 W. 13th Street.