‘Sister Act’ requires close maneuvering on smaller stage

Play is based on 1992 movie that starred Whoopi Goldberg


Theater lights began to dim on May 17. First, Town Hall Arts Center’s board president Denise Kato introduced new THAC executive director Sharan Wilson to an enthusiastic first-night crowd and introduced the production staff and show director — a nice way to start the evening — these essential ingredients in every production are not adequately recognized in general.

Then it was time for the opening performance of the musical “Sister Act,” with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Cheri Steinkeller and Bill Steinkeller — with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane. The musical is based on the 1992 movie that starred Whoopi Goldberg in the Deloris part. “Sister Act” runs through June 16 at Town Hall Arts Center in downtown Littleton.

Music kicked in promptly — in gangster Curtis’ nightclub, with “Take Me to Heaven.” Action also kicked in with a murder, witnessed by a group that included Curtis’ girlfriend, Las Vegas singer Deloris Van Cartier (Sheryl Renee). Local police, led by Lt. Eddie Souther (Ben Hilzer) — who remembers Deloris from high school days — immediately see the need for witness protection for Deloris, to keep her safe from gang reprisal …

What location could be safer than a quiet, disciplined convent?

We soon arrive at Queen of Angels Cathedral in San Francisco, where stern Mother Superior (Maggie Lamb) is very much in charge of the convent and immediately clashes with brassy Deloris, who will henceforth be Sister Mary Clarence, named for the patron saint of prisoners … Deloris is a product of Catholic schools, but does not have happy memories of “those nasty old nuns.” And she’s accustomed to doing things her way, rather than taking orders.

On the other hand, “It’s Good to Be a Nun,” sings Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours (Suzanne Nepi of Highlands Ranch, in her first Town Hall appearance), as the sisters gather to welcome the sassy singer.

Mother Superior tells her to pretty much stay in her room, except for meals. Lamb sings “Within These Walls” and tries to maintain order within the order.

Then it occurs to her that perhaps the singer could help with the nuns’ choir, which sings badly at poorly attended Sunday services. She can help indeed — and soon the church is packed on Sundays — and we have a chance to get acquainted with the Monsignor (Brian Trampler), shy novice Sister Mary Robert (Bella Hawthorne) and more characters, including altar boys and additional singing, dancing nuns, cops and gangsters in a cast of 21 — a large cast for Town Hall’s limited stage space. (Blocking and choreography are very precisely planned!) There’s a contrast between the tough guys singing “Take Me to Heaven” and the nuns’ sweet rendition, which is fun. Watch for other amusing disparities.

Sheryl Renee pretty much commands the stage when she’s on and brings decades of experience. She makes it look easy! A career highlight for her is performing the national anthem for President Barack Obama. And offstage, she is a children’s safety advocate and web designer. This is her first time to work with director Bob Wells — who is also a local legend.

While at Town Hall, visit the art exhibit, “Unorthodox Art,” featuring work by Danielle Quigley, Carmella Fogt and Gabrielle Gracine, which runs through June 16.


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