Review of Sister Act at KTK Productions

    The more I see the musical Sister Act, the more I appreciate it. I was misled by my first encounter with the show, which was in a splashy touring production. Its pizzazz was a distraction from human story at the heart of the show. That story is paramount in the current staging by KTK Productions, which builds to a stirring conclusion.

    Based on the 1992 film of the same name, Sister Act features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and a book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner, with additional material by Douglas Carter Beane. Joseph Howard wrote the film script.

    The main character, Deloris Van Cartier, is a performer in the night club operated by her gangster boyfriend, Curtis. Deloris is unhappy with how Curtis is treating her both personally and professionally. When she goes to the club to break up with him, Deloris arrives just in time to see Curtis committing a murder.

    Deloris goes straight from the club to the Philadelphia police for protection. The desk chief at the station is, Eddie, a high school classmate of Deloris’s. She used to call him “Sweaty Eddie” because of how he reacted to stress. He still has a crush on her.

    Eddie puts Deloris in witness protection program and takes her to the place he thinks Curtis will never look for her: a convent. Its location is a financially strapped church that may soon have to be sold.

    Fitting into a religious community with strict rules isn’t easy for the free-spirited Deloris. She quickly finds herself at odds with the stern Mother Superior. Deloris discovers her niche, however, when she is forced to join the convent choir. Her effect on the choir changes everything for the convent and for Deloris herself.

    When casting Sister Act, KTK hedged against the possibility of a Covid outbreak by designating seven members of the chorus as understudies for featured roles. In recognition of their contributions, the understudies played their featured roles at the first Sunday matinee. That performance was the one I attended, but I would have never known about the substitution if it had not been brought to my attention. Despite doing double duty in the chorus, the understudies made the most of their fully deserved time in the spotlight.

    Tychirra Moreno gave Deloris the impulsiveness that gets her into trouble and the personal magnetism that wins her love and respect in an environment where she initially seemed out of place. Terri Beilstein was tough but sympathetic as the Mother Superior. Hannah Piehl’s Sister Mary Robert made a striking transition from a diffident postulant to the powerhouse who makes “The Life I Never Led” a compelling number. Jade Cash as Michelle and Jill Holtzmann as Tina were an impressive pair of backup singers for Deloris at the nightclub. Elizabeth Breed Penny as Sister Mary Patrick and Dolores Perlow as Sister Mary Lazarus were an impressive pair of backup singers for Deloris at the convent.

    Aaron Fischer was a genuinely nice guy as Eddie, while Ed Brekel was a genuinely tough guy as Curtis. Trung Tran as TJ, Nick Sumach as Joey, Jackie Smith as Pablo brought a welcome element of humor to their portrayals of Curtis’s henchmen. Jim Wamser was warm and believable as Monsignor O’Hara.

    The musical numbers were delightful thanks to the performances of the entire cast, the playing by the band under music director Joe Schoen, and the choreography by Jaelyn Hawkins. The story received support it needed from the set design by Kyle Kranes-Rutz, the costumes by Marie Moore and the cast, the sound by Joe Moore, the lights by Chris O’Donovan, and the spotlight by Renee Kouzomis.

    Sister Act continues at 7:30 p.m. on May 19 and 20 and 2 p.m. on May 21 at the St. John the Baptist Gymnasium, 4200 Delor Street. The cast at those performances will include Adrienne Spann as Deloris Van Cartier, Joan Landholt as Mother Superior, Kara Grossmann as Sister Mary Robert, Marissa Meyers as Sister Mary Patrick, Tafra Perryman as Sister Mary Lazarus, Rachel Puleo as Michell, and Angela Healy as Tina.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by John DeBellis