It takes a lot of work to make a decent show out of a weak script. That was the task Stages assigned itself when it chose to close their 30th season with “Sister Act”. They’ve managed pretty well, but nothing can help the script enough, not even the occasional really funny lines that are scattered through it. There are times, especially early on, when it becomes uncomfortable, with stereotyping happening right and left.
Dan’yelle Williamson is Deloris, the would-be nightclub singer who unwittingly witnesses her married boyfriend committing a murder. She has to go into hiding. An old high-school crush is a cop (Curtis Wiley) who stashes her in a convent. This is not, let us say, a natural environment for her.
Just ask the Mother Superior (Corrine Melancon). Shepherding the recalcitrant Deloris through this is no small task. The parish priest, Steve Isom, has been offered cash to pay for Deloris’ stay, and the church and convent need big bucks to avoid closing.
Deloris is clearly interested in working her way up in the world, both in terms of her music and her personal style. The convent, of course, puts a halt to all that. Williamson tackles the Alan Menken/Glen Slater score with enthusiasm and expertise. Melancon’s Mother Superior is textbook, icy-perfect, keeping her exasperation – mostly – to herself, and taking full advantage of some of the best lines in the script. Eddie, the cop, courtesy of Curtis Wiley, is a charmer. No swagger, just warmth and good intentions, Wiley brings a fine voice, and considerable hoofing ability. And Isom – well, an Irish priest gives him broad scope to have a good time without resorting to ham.
The postulant, Mary Robert, played by Leah Berry, shy and hesitant – perhaps it’s because of the white ankle socks she has to wear – takes a real shine to Deloris, even after her identity is revealed, eventually trading in the socksPlenty of familiar faces at Stages show up as well, some of them almost hidden behind the wimples, but watch in particular for the last of John Flack’s different roles.
James Wolk’s set works really well, seemingly simple but pretty impressive, It’s aided by Sean M. Savoie’s lighting. Brad Musgrove’s costumes, which grow increasingly non-traditional through the show – one is reminded of Mother Superior’s muttering about that folk mass – are eventually so full of glitter, the choreography of Stephen Bourneuf is almost secondary.
It’s fun. It’s not great theater, but it’s fun. In fact, they’ve added an extra matinee Thursday afternoon, September 29; check the website for details.
through October 9
Stages St. Louis
Robert G. Reim Theatre
111 S. Geyer Rd., Kirkwood