Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s production of Sister Act doesn’t come alive until three-quarters of the way through the first act.
It’s then that Deloris Van Cartier (Amanda Foote) joins with the convent-dwelling sisters for a stellar gospel number. The dynamic is soulful and empowering; it’s where these performers, though working with lackluster material, shine.
On opening night, the musical comedy, directed by Colleen Doyno, made up for its lack of a profound script with entertaining production values (including a guest appearance by Bishop David Zubik as … the Bishop!).
Based on the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act was created by Alan Menken (music), Glenn Slater (lyrics) and book-writers Douglas Carter Beane and Cheri and Bill Steinkellner. It opens in 1970s Philadelphia with fabulous heroine Deloris auditioning a Philly-soul-style number for boyfriend and nightclub manager/gang leader Curtis (Brady Patsy). Foote consistently delivers star-quality gospel-like performances.
Deloris accidentally witnesses Curtis break the sixth commandment (“thou shalt not kill,” for those of you who skipped CCD) and makes a run for the police station. Eddie Souther (Justin Lonesome), or “Sweaty Eddie,” a cop and former classmate who still harbors a crush on Deloris, puts her in a convent for protection. Lonesome shines in his solo number “I Could Be That Guy,” which also demonstrates an audience-wooing double-breakaway costume from costume designer Kim Brown.
At first, Deloris cannot find common ground with the sisters; then she joins the choir and helps them funk up their Sunday mass with sequined habits and Saturday-night dance numbers (choreographed by Lisa Elliot).
In the convent, the actors play off each other incredibly well. Allison Cahill’s stern Mother Superior is juxtaposed superbly with Tim Hartman’s goofy Monsignor O’Hara. The ensemble of singing nuns provide reliable comic relief. Nina Danchenko’s bubbly Sister Mary Patrick and Chris Laitta’s rickety Sister Mary Lazarus stand out. Nicole Uram, as Sister Mary Robert, belts out the incredible solo number “The Life I Never Led.” Foote’s and Cahill’s performances highlight the sincere formation of that relationship.
Though the script gets campy and predictable, the PMT cast works every possible angle to deliver a heartwarming message of sisterhood solidarity.