Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Sister Act
The Palace Theatre

Sister Act has been dubbed the "Divine Musical Comedy." This is what Dante would have written if he'd had a band, backup singers and glitter. The play is based on the successful 1992 movie, which starred Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris Van Cartier. Goldberg is a producer of the musical version of Sister Act.

The story concerns Deloris Van Cartier (Ta'rea Campbell), a wannabe singer, who just can't get the career breaks she needs. Suddenly, that break comes like a shot. She witnesses a gangland shooting. Deloris is placed in police security and sent to a convent for safety. In the convent, she has to take on the duties and dress of a nun. She's assigned to lead the music.

The choir of nuns couldn't be much worse. But, with a little direction from Deloris, they're packing the church. Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik) isn't happy with these changes—the music is too loud and raucous and the wrong people are coming to church—the homeless, the down and out and even a few people addicted to drugs. What would Jesus think?

But the offering plates are filled and what was an almost out-of-business church suddenly succeeds financially. But, wait, even better news—the Pope is coming to this church to hear Deloris and her nuns do their sister act. When the Pope appears in the orchestra pit, his face never shows, but the actor received warm applause.

Deloris is also loud and raucous and, although she went to a Catholic school, she has difficulty getting into the habits of the convent. The production starts much too slowly. Ta'rea Campbell makes her Deloris too plain, sluggish and deliberate at the opening of the show. Her comedy lines seem paced for a snail. But, late in the first act, when the script offers the big numbers, Campbell hits her stride and couldn't be better. She makes her conversion to being a sister (in this case a friend of the church) and romance with a police officer, the actions of a well-thought-out character.

As the Mother Superior, Hollis Resnick is the definitive female curmudgeon. However, this is a woman who has been trained in one tradition and is having trouble modulating to another. Resnick lets the audience observe her conversion from classic hymns to disco and dazzle.

The surprise of the show is the awkward postulate, Mary Robert, played by Lael Van Keuren. She understudied the role on Broadway. She has a dynamite voice that would make Ethel Merman stand up and salute. As she falls under the influence of Deloris, she becomes self-assured and learns to let that beautiful, strong voice out.

The star of the show is Lez Brotherston, the costume designer. She keeps the nuns in traditional habits, but as the story progresses, their habits become brighter and twinkle. Are those millions of sequins for each nun's habit? By the end of the show it's difficult to look at the stage because of the gleaming costumes.

The successful, entertaining production fills Cleveland's Palace Theater. This is classical musical comedy of the 1950s variety. Sister Act isn't divine, but is a good evening in the theater.

For ticket information, telephone 216-241-6000 or visit For information on the tour, visit

The KeyBank Broadway Series continues with War Horse (April 9-12, 2013), Guys and Dolls (May 1 - June 23, 2013), The Book of Mormon (June 18 - July 7) and The Lion King (July 9 - August 4, 2013).

The Palace Theatre
Playhouse Square
Sister Act
March 5-17, 2013
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Book: Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Additional Book Material: Douglas Carter Beane
Based on the Touchstone Pictures Motion Picture Sister Act written by Joseph Howard
Deloris Van Cartier: Ta'rea Campbell
Michelle: Alysha Deslorieux
Tina: Trisha Jeffrey
Curtis Jackson: Kingsley Leggs
Joey: Todd A. Horman
Pablo: Ernie Pruneda
TJ: Charles Barksdale
Ernie: Jason Simon
Eddie Souther: E. Clayton Cornelious
Cop: Melvin Abston
Mother Superior: Hollis Resnick
Monsignor O'Hara: Richard Pruitt
Mary Robert: Lael Van Keuren
Mary Patrick: Florrie Bagel
Mary Lazarus: Diane J. Findlay
Mary Martin-of-Tours: Jacqui Graziano
Mary Theresa: Karen Elliott
Waitress: Michelle Rombola
Joey Finnochio: Brian Cali
Ensemble: Melvin Abston, Brian Cali, Alysha Deslorieux, Karen Elliott, Blair Goldberg, Jacqui Graziano, Trisha Jeffrey, Mary Jo McConnell, Ashley Moniz, Michelle Rombola, Jason Simon, Angie Marie Smith, Tricia Tanguy, Kelley E. Waters, Dashaun Young
Scenic Design: Klara Zieglerova
Costume Design: Lez Brotherston,br>Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Ken Travis
Wig and Hair Design: David Brian Brown
Director: Jerry Zaks
Choreographer:Anthony Van Laast
Associate Director: Steven Beckler
Associate Choreographer

- David Ritchey

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