John Szablewski Reviews

Theatre Review: ‘Sister Act’ at Lancaster Opera House

“Sister Act” is one of my favorite movies. It is a film that my family cherishes and one that I watch as many times as I can. It just has a feeling of nostalgia that takes you to a good place when you might be feeling low. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to review the national tour of the Alan Menken musical adaptation that took Broadway by storm. There are subtle changes, but it works, and the music is great. When I saw last year that the Lancaster Opera House was going to produce the show, I was excited.

. . .audiences will find something that they really enjoy in this production.

“Sister Act” is the musical adaptation of the Touchstone Pictures film of the same name, and tells the story of Delores Van Cartier (Zhanna Reed) a lounge singer who is dating a mobster, Curtis Jackson (Preach Freedom) and who witnesses a violent murder. After running to the police, Officer Eddie Souter (Lorenzo Shawn Parnell) puts Delores into the witness protection program to save her from meeting her maker. The best place to send her? A convent, where she has to pretend to be a nun, but after getting to know the ladies in the convent, and finding that her talents as a singer can help them save their church, Delores’  cover is compromised.

The opening night performance of this run had its fair share of bumps in the road, but I like to focus on the positives. The ensemble, and the orchestra, helped carry a show that sometimes could not count on it’s leads to keep the story driving forward. It is some of the supporting cast that have the most memorable of performances. David Bondrow is hilarious as mobster Joey. Along with Joe Russi’s Pablo and Brian Brown’s TJ, the trio is the highlight of the production, getting laugh after laugh, and quite possibly having the best songs in the show. They help keep the energy high and the audience engaged.

Lorenzo Shawn Parnell is a crowd favorite as Officer Eddie Souter. Parnell plays the lovable loser, turned hero in the end, well, and instantly gets the audience on his side. His performance of “I Could Be That Guy” stops the show.

Mary Rappl Bellanti is fantastic as Mother Superior. The character is quite different than the Maggie Smith character we know so well from the film. Bellanti makes it her own. She is stern, she is rough, but she is also loving. You will definitely enjoy her performance.

Preach Freedom is the perfect choice for mob boss Curtis Jackson. Freedom’s voice is so powerful and deep, you are scared for your own life in the audience. He will be back on the Opera House stage soon, I guarantee it.

Madalyn Teal is the sweetest Sister Mary Robert you could ask for. Teal nails the character’s arc right on the head, and gives a heartwarming and powerful performance. When she stands up to Mother Superior in act two, a tear comes to your eye.

John Kreuzer is fantastic as Monsignor O’Hara, the head of the church that is on it’s way to be shut down. He has the best comedic chops, and delivers every one of his jokes with perfection.

And so we come to Delores, played by the young Zhanna Reed. Miss Reed is new when it comes to practicing her craft. She has a great voice, and a big personality. Her performance of “Raise Your Voice” is great and will be the song you find yourself humming as you leave the theatre. For the most part, she does an adequate job as Delores, but has much room for growth when it comes to the subtle parts. The one that stands out to me the most is when Delores walks into the room as Curtis is shooting his victim, and she nonchalantly keeps talking as if this did not phase her one bit. If she was so accustomed to seeing Curtis whack his victims, there would be no story for this musical to tell! Perhaps this is an area for Director Kevin Leary and Miss Reed to revise, but other than some opening night jitters, I think Miss Reed has wonderful potential to be a mainstay in our theatre community!

All in all, the show is a take it or leave it for me, but I think that audiences will find something that they really enjoy in this production. The orchestra  and the ensemble alone are worth the price of admission!

Running Time: 2 Hours 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

“Sister Act” runs until June 23, 2019 and is presented at the Lancaster Opera House. For more information, click here.