Sister Act opened at Toronto’s Lower Ossington Theatre on Dec. 1, 2016. Directed by Tanisha Taitt, the musical is an adaptation of the wildly successful comedy of the early 90s starring Whoopi Goldberg. Briefly, lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder committed by her mobster boyfriend, Curtis. Deloris goes to the police where she finds her old friend, Eddie, from high school is now a police officer. Eddie wants Deloris to testify against Curtis at his upcoming trial, but he needs to protect his key witness so the police transfer Deloris to a convent. While hiding out at the nunnery, Deloris clashes with the Mother Superior over the restrictions of life as a nun and later reenergizes the lacklustre choir, which soars under Deloris’s direction.
With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, Sister Act features an energetic score. The opening two songs were raucous numbers that are inferior to the more memorable songs that appear later in the musical and they don’t optimally showcase lead actor Amaka Umeh’s voice. Umeh sounded much more melodic on later numbers including “It’s Good To Be A Nun” and the subdued “Sister Act”.
Debuting at the Lower Ossington Theatre is double threat actor-singer Amy Holden, who plays Mother Superior. Holden has a magnificent range and the vibrato in her voice in the higher octaves during “Here Within These Walls” hinted at her vocal power. As Mother Superior, Holden was appropriately authoritative, sparred well with Deloris and was entirely credible considering her young age.
Steven Vlahos as Curtis was commanding and slick and showcased a deep, soulful baritone on “When I Find My Baby”.
Chelsea Jayne Bray demonstrated great comedic timing as the bubbly Sister Mary Patrick, and displayed a strong singing voice.
Autumn-Joy Dames, another first-timer at the LOT, showcased a dazzling voice in “The Life I Never Had” as Sister Mary Robert.
Umeh hit the right stride with her spunky, sassy Deloris and displayed polished comedic skills.
The funniest moment in the musical belonged to Ed Robinson as Joey singing “Lady In The Long Black Dress ,” as a lesson to his friends on how to charm the ladies. Robinson made the song his own by slinking across the stage, singing low and seductively and then animating his song with a few raunchy movements. Priceless…he had the audience in stitches!
Naomi Costain’s choreography was particularly effective during the escape scene in which Deloris is running away from the gangsters. The use of panels at stage left and stage right which the characters hid behind, then re-appeared produced a slapstick sequence commonly seen in silent movies. Another number where the dancing was dazzling was “I Could Be That Guy”.
Mikael Kangas’s creative lighting helped transition the disco scene in “Fabulous Baby!” to the convent.
This production, although entertaining, runs fairly long: it was approximately 2 hours and 35 minutes including intermission. It might benefit from a bit of editing in the second half.
Sister Act at the Lower Ossington Theatre is a fun musical to enjoy with the family during the holidays…go see it!
Sister Act at the Lower Ossington Theatre is being performed from December 1, 2016 to January 29, 2017. Performances are Thursday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 3:30 p.m.