It’s a gloomy Sunday morning and I woke up in Singapore still reeling from the night before. Did a Broadway show give me the most fun church experience I’ve had in the longest time? Yeah, I think it did.
The best thing about non-church masses is that you don’t have to get up early on a Sunday. That’s exactly the feeling I had waking up from my post-Sister Act glitter slumber.
We got to catch the production in Singapore, weeks before the show hits Manila, kicking off here June 27 at the Solaire Theatre courtesy of Ovation Productions.
We caught this particular show at the Mastercard Theater in Marina Bay Sands. The place was filled with theater fans, some going all-out in nun costumes (note: these were mostly middle-aged dudes). At first, I had the impression that it might just be a promotional thing à la The Handmaid’s Tale, but I guess they just love the show a lot. It’s like The Rocky Horror Picture Show experience sans the campy vibe.
Entering the theater, I didn’t have a clue what Sister Act was aside from two facts: 1) the movie version starred Whoopi Goldberg, and 2) the song I Will Follow Him came from that movie (originally it was a ’60s pop tune). Both the movie and the Broadway show tell the story of Deloris, an aspiring singer who auditions in club after club to get her big break. Set in the ‘70s, there was no American Idol or The Voice yet to catapult her to stardom. After witnessing a crime committed by her (very married) boyfriend, she is sent to a convent by her childhood friend (who also happens to be in love with her) for witness protection. What comes after is the perfect example of divine musical intervention, when she finally realizes what she really wants and where she truly belongs.
The plot doesn’t stray far from the movie version. The storyline remains solid, with a few added extravagant numbers, and a whole lot of glitter to boot. After all, it was co-produced by the OG Deloris — Whoopi Goldberg. The show features new tracks by no less than Alan Menken, a.k.a. the mastermind behind the soundtracks of Aladdin, Enchanted, The Little Mermaid and many more.
What stood out for me the most is the LSS-inducing and flexible soundtrack. You know how there are some songs that work both as a love song and as a gospel song? Like Switchfoot’s Only Hope? Sister Act’s Take Me To Heaven is just like that. When I first heard it, I thought that it was a cute love song. Deloris sang it to her boyfriend as an audition song, so I had the impression that it was all romance. But when the tune was reprised by the nuns as a gospel track, I was nearly blown out of my seat. After that, I was looking for all the Catholic puns, (and trust me, Sister Act is full of them).
Despite the religious nature of the show, it doesn’t feel preachy. Yes, Raise Your Voice can pass as your quintessential gospel song, but the glittery costumes and adorable nuns make it feel like a jukebox musical. Don’t get me started on Sunday Morning Fever (a nod to Saturday Night Fever) and the subtle vogue-ing. The dude nuns we saw earlier were dancing in their seats, and the rest of the audience didn’t seem to mind. With a soundtrack this great, and a stellar cast filling the theater with explosive energy, it’s hard not to sing along too.
Dene Hill (Deloris Van Cartier) is as good a lead as it gets. She delivers the songs with soul power, and her lines with enough character to hit the balcony. With her amazing theater and opera experience, you expect nothing less from her. Mother Superior, the least evil of antagonists, is played by Rebecca Mason-Wygal. Her crisp and clear voice balances Dene’s rich and sultry tone. While the leads establish the story, the ensemble turn Sister Act into a party. It’s delightful to see about 15 nuns (and a priest) “wave it like they just don’t care.” I recommend seeing the show for that reason alone.
What makes Sister Act a must-see is the fact that everyone is there to have a good time. They make Catholic culture accessible and understandable, even to those who aren’t of the religion. The cast, set and music invite us all in for a night to remember. It’s comedy, romance, crime story and musical rolled into one. Sister Act is everything you’d hope for in a movie-turned-musical (and from church, TBH) and more. I definitely wouldn’t mind attending church more often if Deloris and the rest of the crew were there.
Catch Sister Act at The Theater at Solaire starting June 27. For tickets, visit www.ticketworld.com or call 981-9999. For other shows by Ovation Productions, visit their website at ovationproductionsmanila.com.