SHOWING : January 24, 2007 - February 25, 2007
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Wow. I umm... liked it. Don't hurt me!!|
Saturday, February 10, 2007 ||
I seem to be the only person who really really enjoyed the show. Sure it needed some tweaking before it hits Broadway for sure. But overall, it's a fun time, and the songs are surprisingly catchy.|
Two people needed to be replaced however. The lead role of Delores Van Cartier needs to either be replaced, or strengthen her voice. The notes that should have been belted seemed to have a muffled quality to it. And Mother Supieror needed to have a high soprano voice, which she didn't have. Although the woman playing Mother Superior did an amazing job acting wise, singing wise wasn't so good. But what the show lacked in those two made up for in every other way. They songs were hilarious. Sister Mary Roberts was amazing, and had a beautifully clear voice. The costumes were cute. I laughed so hard during this. And you know why? Because IT'S FUN. The musical is fun. Perhaps it's not a smart political satire, or reflecting on today's society. But you'll have fun, and you won't feel guilty about it. 4 stars. Over and Out. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Shake Your Guilty Pleasure|
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 ||
Here’s an interesting situation. What happens if a songwriter whose work you like takes on a subject that has no appeal for you? Well, if it’s Alan Menken and “Sister Act – The Musical,” you sit back in an artistically judgmental pose, run through your list of everything you don’t like about the show, then go see it again.|
To begin with, I was not a big fan of the Whoopi Goldberg movie on which this show is based. I found it a by-the-numbers exercise in strained excess that never got so much as a chuckle from me. Secondly, I hated hated HATED Disco. My wife will tell you it takes an act of any-unnamed-or-mythological-power-higher-than-Congress to get me onto a dance floor, where I look like Dork. And I’ll never forgive Disco for robbing us of the BeeGees who gave us “Words” and “First of May,” two of my favorite songs from my College Years.
On the other hand, I’m second-to-none in my fondness for Alan Menken’s work. From “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Weird Romance” through “A Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” there’s not a Menken song I don’t like (his post-Harold-Ashman work is good, but not as great as this early stuff).
What does happen when an Irresistible Songwriter meets an Unmovably Unlikable Subject?
Let’s start with the long list, the stuff I didn’t like:
(1) Dawnn Lewis has a lovely singing voice and a strong stage presence, but she is no Whoopi Goldberg. She’s not helped by a script that has her doing things and spouting lines no minimally intelligent human being would ever consider, nor by a structure that saves all the strongest songs for the supporting characters, nor by a character arc that's basically a flatline (she’s the same at the end as at the beginning, only with a classier set of friends).
(2) The villains are buffoons who are more comic relief than plot drivers. They embody the worst of 70’s Blaxploitation Caricature and show no qualities whatsoever that make them other than lame plot devices. It makes the climax laughable in its triteness and unbelievability.
(3) The opening number is too well-lit, too flashily-designed to ever make us believe it’s a seedy juke joint. It comes across as more High-End Vegas than low-rent South Philly.
(4) The lyrics really make me miss Harold Ashman’s work. “God as Disco Ball?” What was he thinking?
(5) Most of the nuns are one-note caricatures who have little identity apart from their one-line descriptions. Even though they have a moderately amusing number about what led to their “callings,” it comes across more as an excuse for shallow jokes than as a song to reveal anything about their faith or their characters.
All that being said, I did have a good time at this show. And yet, my list of “plusses” is decidedly shorter:
(1) I liked how the unit set worked to suggest time and place to keep transitions quick and smoth. (It was also nice how it caught the lights).
(2) I liked how “Sweaty Eddie’s” big number used tear-a-away costuming to turn our expectations on their heads and develop his song and character.
(3) I liked Menken’s music (lyrics aside) and would buy a CD based on this show. Its “Disco-esqueness” was subdued and not as obnoxious as actual Disco Music was.
(4) Overall, I enjoyed the show much more than the movie
I could take this space to ruminate about Guilty Pleasures, or about why my gut enjoyed this show more than my head did, or to rant about how Musicals have become more craft than art, or to dig deeper for stuff to praise, or to analyze why I feel more compelled to nitpick than to just revel, or to vent about the popular and financial support lightweight stuff like this steals from serious fare.
But I’m not in the mood.
So, I’ll just go see the show again, sharing it this time with my lovely and talented wife. “Guilty Pleasure” be damned! I’m not ashamed about what I like (and don’t like).
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || Dark Habits by EKFricke|
| Hey Brad:|
Check our Almodovar's "Dark Habits". I believe "Sister Act" was based on it. It would be interesting to track the artistic 'progression.'
I should add a codecil: it's been a while since I've seen Dark Habits. But I went through an Almodovar & Greenaway phase in college. Almodovar gets better & better - but I can't remember the exact quality of this one, only that I really liked it at the time.
Of course, I liked "Electric Dreams" when I first saw it - and, Bud Cort nonwithstanding, it didn't hold up in recent viewings. :-) So viewer beware.
| || Dark Habits Pt2 by EKFricke|
| I should also say to explain the Greenaway reference that this early Almodovar is a bit risque as was Greenaway (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover) so check out a synopsis on IMDB to see what I mean before renting. Don't want to offend! :-)|
| || Dark Habits? by Dedalus|
| Liz --|
It's been awhile since I've seen "Dark Habits" too, but I'm skeptical about its influence on "Sister Act." I remember it as being Darkly (pun intended) Anti-Catholic satire, while "Sister Act" was more of a "Lets tell some Nun Jokes while keeping a warm-and-fuzzy atitude" toward the Church sort of drivel. Quality aside, the plots are quite dissimilar.
While we're in the Nun Vein, have you seen "Nasty Habits?" It's a retelling of the Watergate Saga as a power play in a convent. As hoots go, it's fairly high on the list.
(BTW, I'm also a big Greenaway fan and have seen "Prospero's Books" far more times than a sane person should ....)
| || Dark Habits by EKFricke|
| Ha! Skepticism aside - I remember clearly going to see "Sister Act" because I'd heard it was based on "Dark Habits" and BOY was I disappointed in the sanitization.|
Course, I could have had dodgy references. My college stoner film-major friends MAY have been misinformed (grin). It *is* a bit of a stretch to go from Sister Manure to Whoopi to Disco - but such is how art evolves, eh?
(She says sarcastically) :-)
| || Revisiting by Dedalus|
| I went to see this again (just so I could share it with my lovely and talented spouse), and, most of what I said still stands. This time, I saw Ms. Lewis' understudy and found her stronger and more compelling (I'll concede the point that Ms. Lewis probably had an "off" night the first time I saw it). In any case, a stronger Deloris made for a more focused play, and a greater appreciation for the solo numbers she's given.|
Act I One works just as well the second time -- it's funny and entertaining and compelling -- which means there's probably something more than "by-the-numbers" musical theatre going on here. The villains are still cartoonish buffoons, which actually works for much of the play. This, though, makes the final confrontation fall pretty flat -- either the buffoonishness needs to be turned down early, or the climax needs to be made sillier.
I'm still not sold on the finale. It's compelling musically -- you do want to clap along and you walk out humming the tune -- but the subject and lyrics are just too lame for words. You can find a song about faith and sisterhood and joy without the clunky metaphor of "God is a mirror ball."
And, the arc of Deloris needs some adjustment. Her attachment to the sisters is made more through a sense of sisterhood and mutual fun than for any overt religious reason, so when Deloris has the number mixing her Showgirl and Nungirl personas, it seems "out of the blue."
Oh, and the first number is still too classy -- a South Philly Dive in 1978 would have have had a single follow spot and a cheesy mechanical chase at best -- at the time computerized color-changing lights hardly even existed in Vegas. Perhaps some sense of "This isn't real, it's how Deloris sees it" would have made it work better.
Still and all, in the Final Analysis, if you love musicals (or the original movie), you'll probably like this. Even the second time, I had a good time, and I don't feel guilty about that.
Sister Act journeys from silver screen to out of town tryout|
|by Rockdale Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007 ||
No matter what I think of it, “Sister Act: The Musical” is going to Broadway. |
It’s too much of a disco-dancing, jive-talking, money-making cash cow not to join its sisters “The Producers,” “Sunset Boulevard” and “Grand Hotel” in the pantheon of films-turned-musicals.
It won’t matter that lyricist Glenn Slater compares God to a mirror ball, when the show itself is a fragmented set of reflective surfaces. It’s about life! It’s about change! Freedom! Deception! Sisterhood!
Big freakin’ deal if nightclub singer Dawnn Lewis as nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier doesn’t carry the show, she grimly hauls it around like the giant purse and emotional baggage her character brings to a new home in this fish-out-of-water tale.
So it needs a little tweaking before it plays New Haven, Boston and Philadelphia. The suburban Baby Boomers at whom it is aimed won’t mind its resemblance to a disco where swirling lights and loud music overwhelm any attempts to get to know strangers beyond “Hi, I’m a Libra. I like sunsets and walks on the beach.”
In their defense, however, SATM characters aren’t really strangers.
The Hero, the Heroine, the Villain—they’re in every fairy tale. The Sidekick. The Father Figure. We know them all. They’re also in every Disney movie.
You see, my theater insiders, Disney plays an uncredited role in SATM.
Disney Studios is the former employer of SATM director Peter Schneider, who until June 21, 2001 was studio chief. Disney is also a big fan of what Atlanta Journal Constitution entertainment reporter Steve Murray identified as a formula older and more stable than that of Coca-Cola. I can’t say it any better so here is what Murray wrote on May 11, 2006:
“A hero and heroine from different worlds. Colorful sidekicks for comic relief. And a hissable villain. And at some point, somebody breaks out in a yearning song about wanting to grow up, get out and explore the Big World Out There.”
SATM may not be a cartoon but it bears the Disney stamp as assuredly as do “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Tarzan.”
Heroine Deloris is a washed-up, barely-clad party girl who turns the beat around even if her backup singers outnumber the audience.
Buttoned-down Hero Eddie Souther, played by David Jennings, holds the rank of sergeant at the Philadelphia Police Department where his gun is under lock and key and the only beat he knows is a desk.
Villain Curtis Shank, played by Harrison White, wants to beat the Heroine after she sees him commit murder and goes into witness protection as far from the spotlight as the Hero can put her.
Colorful sidekicks include trios of memorable performers: Danny Stiles, Melvin Abston and Dan Domenech as the Villain’s henchmen who have a star turn in the clever number “Lady in the Long Black Dress;” and Amy K. Murray, Beth Malone and the scene-stealing Audrie Neenan as Sister Mary Patrick, Sister Mary Robert and Sister Mary Lazarus, respectively.
And gosh darn it if Sister Mary Robert doesn’t let loose about getting out and exploring the Big World Out There in her star turn “The Life I Never Led.”
Another formula, favored by Disney but much older, guides the SATM script written by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner based on the 1992 Touchstone Pictures screenplay by a group of writers including Carrie Fisher but credited to "Joseph Howard."
Former Disney Studios story analyst Christopher Vogler described a plot called the Hero’s Journey in a Disney memo he turned into a 300-page book called “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.”
In this 1998 book in which he references the movie “Sister Act” four times, Vogler said the plot at the heart of every myth is a series of scenes called Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Tests Allies and Enemies, Approach to the Inmost Cave, Ordeal, Reward, The Road Back, Resurrection, and Return with the Elixir.
Print this out and check them off one by one during the show if you don’t believe me.
Oh, I know you’re going; it’s better to beat the crowd to $65 tickets in Atlanta than surrender $100 a pop on the Great White Way.
With tried-and-true formulae supporting it like the metal scaffolding of David Potts’ skeletal set, I’ll be darned if SATM doesn’t have what it takes to take its place alongside other Disney properties on Broadway like “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Aida,” the Elton John musical which also made its out-of-town tryout at the Alliance and got tweaked before its Broadway opening.
SATM—with a little tweaking like, oh, more romance between the Hero and Heroine, recasting the Villain with an actor with diction skills, not humiliating the Sidekicks with silly costumes and (yes!) the right star in the lead role—will run forever.
Cast credits: Elizabeth Ward Land plays Mother Superior; Henry Polic II, Badia Farha, Andi Gibson, Wendy James, Wendy Melkonian, Craig A. Meyer, Claci Miller, Patina Renea Miller, Lisa Robinson and Roberta B. Wall play multiple roles.
Production credits: Music written by Alan Menken. Choreography by Marguerite Derricks. Creative supervision by Michael Reno. Music supervision by Michael Kosarin. Orchestra conducted by Brent-Alan Huffman. Costumes by Garry Lennon. Lighting by Donald Holder. Co-producer: Pasadena (Calif.) Playhouse.
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)