Review: Maldonado a delight in ‘Sister Act’

Oct. 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

Broadway has played it safe many times in the last 25 or 30 years staging shows that come with a built-in audience thanks to their prior success as a movie, television show or comic book.

sister act

‘SISTER ACT’

Presented by Diamond Head Theatre

» Where: 520 Makapuu Avenue
» When: 8 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday
» Cost: $15-$50
» Info: (808) 733-0274 or www.diamondheadtheatre.com

“Sister Act,” Broadway’s version of the hit 1992 movie of the same name, is one of them. It is not a great musical in terms of having memorable songs that audiences go home singing, but as directed and choreographed by Andrew Sakaguchi at Diamond Head Theatre it is enjoyable and surprisingly clever. The opening night audience on Sept. 25 laughed at all the right spots and several performers earned spontaneous applause for their work in individual showcase numbers.

Alison L.B. Maldonado stars as Deloris Van Cartier, an aspiring superstar whose life careens off in unexpected directions after she accidentally sees her gangster boyfriend kill a member of his gang. The boy friend wants Deloris dead. The police stash her in a convent where the Mother Superior insists that she behave with appropriate decorum. It is — predictably — a rough adjustment, but eventually Deloris takes charge of the convent’s painfully untalented choir and turns them into a tight song-and-dance team that delivers Christian messages in a format that is part black gospel church and part disco.

The revved-up choir draws such crowds that the Monsignor is able to pay off the debts that had the church and convent on the verge of being sold. News of their success in drawing people of all faiths to Mass reaches Rome and word comes that the Pope is coming to see them.

Pope Paul VI, that is. Broadway’s version of “Sister Act” takes place in 1978. Anyone familiar with American culture in the 1970s will enjoy the references to Donna Summer, John Travolta and Barry White. There are also brief parodies of the Sugar Hill Gang and the Floaters, assorted malapropisms, a song titled “Sunday Morning Fever,” and a lot of well-written one-liner comedy.

Sakaguchi’s choreography — Deloris and her two secular backing singers in a couple of scenes, a trio of dancing gangsters in another — is true to the era. So are the platform shoes worn by a pair of “gay boys” in one of the dance numbers.

The show is a triumph for Maldonado. It’s her first time as the star after years of memorable performances in supporting roles, and she’s delightful. The Deloris Van Cartier character is one step away from being a stereotype but Maldonado brings out facets of the character move beyond stereotype status.

Jodie Bill Bachler (Sister Mary Robert) and Don Farmer (Eddie) earned spontaneous applause on Friday for their work in key showcase numbers. The audience also applauded the nuns’ big “Raise Your Voice” scene in Act I and clapped enthusiastically for the choir’s over-the-top “shake your booty” church service performances in Act II.

Kamaaina theater fans will also appreciate Twan Matthews’ brief cameo appearance as a transvestite in Act I. It’s Matthews’ first show since 2009 and he is a charismatic as ever.

“Sister Act,” by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, additional material by Douglas Carter Beane; lyrics by Glenn Slater; music by Alan Menken; directed and choreographed by Andrew Sakaguchi;musical direction by Phil Hildalgo; costume design by Karen G. Wolfe and Iris Kim; set design by Willie Sabel; prop design by Christina Sutrov; lighting design by Dawn Oshima; hair and make-up design by Lisa Ponce de Leon; sound design by Kerri Yoneda. Running time: 2 hours 9 minutes. With Alison Aldcroft (Mother Superior), Jody Bill Bachler (Sister Mary Patrick), Alika Bright (TJ), Emily Charleton (Sister Mary Patrick), Leslie Detor (Sister Mary Theresa), Don Farmer (Eddie), Phillip Foster (Joey), Thomas Johnson (Curtis), Lisa Konove (Sister Mary Lazarus), Alison L.B. Maldonado (Deloris Van Cartier), Joe Martyak (Monsignor O’Hara) and Michael Stoudmire (Pablo).
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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