Theater review: 'Sister Act' -- 3 stars
This has not been a great season for Broadway musicals based on movies. “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” was a total bust, and “Catch Me If You Can” was a disappointment, too.
So it’s a pleasure to find that “Sister Act,” a new adaptation of the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film comedy, is energetic, hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable. In spite of a few issues, it has all the makings of a feel-good hit.
Goldberg herself serves as an above-the-title producer of the musical and briefly played the role of Mother Superior in the London production.
The setting has been switched to 1970s Philadelphia, but the musical still follows the film’s plot. Nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier’s life changes when she inadvertently walks in on her gangster boyfriend murdering someone.
Since Deloris is now next on the hit list, a cop arranges for her to hide out at a nearby convent. Introduced to the nuns as Sister Mary Clarence, Deloris soon takes over and recharges their flailing choral group, much to the chagrin of the Mother Superior.
The musical, which has been substantially revised since its London production, could still benefit from some cosmetic surgery. The dark set design is nothing short of hideous, and the 1970s grittiness is overstated.
Nevertheless, Jerry Zaks’ high-power production is marked by nonstop physical comedy.
The one-liners by Douglas Carter Beane, who rewrote the book’s scenes for Broadway, are cute. Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater provide a catchy score built on period pop and disco with a few touches of gospel.
Patina Miller delivers a breakout performance as Deloris, displaying genuine sex appeal, musical-comedy chops and a phenomenal voice. Tony winner Victoria Clark is similarly terrific as the strict but sincere Mother Superior.
Other standouts include Chester Gregory as a nerdy police officer with a crush on Deloris, Fred Applegate as the gentle Monsignor O’Hara, and Marla Mindelle as innocent Sister Mary Robert.
If you go: “Sister Act” plays an open run at the Broadway Theatre. 1681 Broadway, 212-239-6200, SisterActTheMusical.com.