Singing with the girls is a hard habit to break

By on October 3, 2018

‘Sister Act’ will be on the Dutch Apple stage through Nov. 10

When I was in high school in the early 1980s, my school didn’t have the funds to put on a giant musical like so many schools do today. Luckily, I discovered nearby Columbia Little Theater, where I landed a role as an ensemble nun in their production of “The Sound of Music.”

Years later, I dressed like a nun (twice!) in productions with my Sweet Adelines chorus. Crazy as it seems, a sisterhood grew between those of us who donned the habit — if only for a short time.

Sister Mary Patrick (Shannon Connolly, center) provides comic relief during a tense convent choir practice. Connolly is also the show’s dance captain. (Image provided by Dutch Apple)

Sisterhood is a major theme in “Sister Act,” currently being staged at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre. The musical tells the hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder and the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think to look — a convent! Under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps the secluded sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own. The show is a sparkling (thanks to many, many sequins) tribute to the universal power of music and sisterhood.

The show is based on the 1992 film by the same name, which stars Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris. The film also spawned a sequel. Fans of the movies’ music — be warned! Those songs are not in the Broadway version of the story. But you won’t miss them. The ballads are moving, the comedic numbers are perfectly timed, and the big production numbers pack a wallop, audibly and visually.

It made me want to break out my nun costume and hop right up onstage with them.

The sisters

Kimberly Oliver makes her Dutch Apple debut as Deloris Van Cartier (a.k.a. Sister Mary Clarence), a role she had wanted to play for most of her adult life. She is a singer, actress, producer and lover of all things artistic. With a strong, clear voice and stellar comedic timing, her vocal performance blew Whoopi away (sorry, Whoopi).

The female cast as a whole delivered powerful vocals, but the most memorable came from Jama Bowen, who played Mother Superior, and Allison Fund, a Lititz native who portrayed shy postulate Sister Mary Robert.

Perhaps it’s my background or fondness of singing in a chorus, but I’m a sucker for large-group production numbers. The nun choir, in addition to being loads of fun to watch, were a treat to listen to as well. Add to that sensational, sequin-coated costumes and wild choreography, and it was a recipe for success.

Kimberly Oliver as Deloris Van Cartier, and Jama Bowen, who plays Mother Superior. These ladies butted heads often throughout the show, but end things on a high note. (LNP file photo)

The brothers

While the storyline lends itself to a female-heavy cast, the roles filled by men were not only pivotal, but varied and well-done.

Timothe Bittle does a handsome, yet scary, turn as Curtis Jackson, Deloris’ married boyfriend (who also happens to be a criminal). His cronies, Joey, Pablo, and TJ (Brian Kalinowski, Martin Boventre, and Thaddeus Piett) provide a portion of the show’s comic relief, followed closely by the increasingly wild antics of Robert Summers as Monsignor O’Hara.

My favorite performer among the fellas was Tyler Price, who played the role of Eddie Souther, a cop who’s had a longstanding crush on Deloris and makes it his mission to protect her at all costs. Having played both Jim in “Big River,” and Audrey II (the plant) in “Little Shop of Horrors,” it wasn’t a surprise that his voice and moves were perfectly suited for his soulful solos.

Tyler Price, as “Sweaty” Eddie Souther, goes from pussycat to tiger and belts out some very soulful numbers during the show. (Photo provided by Dutch Apple)

Welcome to the ‘70s

While the original movie was set in 1992 in San Francisco, the Broadway musical transports us back to Philadelphia, circa 1977. Disco undertones abounded — in the music, the sets, the lighting, the costumes, and the choreography.

The Dutch Apple stage is not very big, so the set designer was forced to be practical. Evan Adamson. managed to not only to evoke a perfectly retro feel to each scene, but also keep it economical. Add that vibrant and colorful lighting, designed by Russell Thompson, and John White’s 70s-ready costumes, and the scene was set. Speaking of costumes, I was blown away by the many costume changes the actors (many of whom played multiple roles) executed backstage so quickly between scenes. One costume change happens onstage so quickly that I thought I imagined it. (I didn’t).

Allison Fund, of Lititz, as mousy Sister Mary Robert, gets some advice about confidence from Deloris (a.k.a. Sister Mary Clarence), Kimberly Oliver. (LNP file photo)

Dinner Theatre

I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly talk about the “Dinner Theatre” part of the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre experience. Along with most Dutch Apple productions, patrons also get to enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet meal prior to the show. Dinner is served in two well-appointed buffet lines, with salad, bread, soup, and homemade desserts. I highly recommend the signature “dutch apple” pie. The day we attended, there were four meat options, and one vegetarian, as well as numerous sides. Everything was delicious; comments from surrounding tables concurred.

From movie to musical

I’m always a little wary of musicals made based on movies or books. I don’t adjust well to change. However, at the heart of both the movie and the musical, “Sister Act” is about the beautiful and powerful bonds that form when a group of women pulls together to accomplish something. It’s not a lesson I needed to learn, but I certainly didn’t mind being reminded.

Purchase tickets to “Sister Act” at dutchapple.com or by calling their box office at 717-898-1900.

Melissa Hunnefield is the features editor for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your feedback and comments at mhunnefield.eph@lnpnews.com.

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