By Jennifer L. Gusso
Running Time: 2hr 40min
Scottfield Theatre Company is currently wrapping up its second season at the Havre de Grace Opera House, and they once again have audiences clapping along and rolling on the floor with laughter in their current offering of Sister Act, Directed by Allan Herlinger, with Musical Direction by Niki Tart, and Choreography by Becky Titelman. If you didn’t get a chance to see the performance last weekend, you should definitely check out one of the remaining performances this coming weekend. There are more than a few can’t-miss songs and performances in this relatively new and not yet overdone musical.
Fair warning: the production does have a bit of a slow start and there are some places where the production drags a little. These are overall issues with the uneven script and a score that contains a few too many unnecessary ballads and not the fault of the production. Conversely, when the script and the music do pick up, there are scenes and songs that are just amazing. This is definitely a script that could benefit from a reworking, but Scottfield does a good job of capitalizing on what works and moving as quickly as possible through what doesn’t.
Based on the 1992 film of the same title, Sister Act centers around Deloris Van Cartier (Tara Nicole Vinson), a messed-up girl with a heart of gold and a powerful belt. Vinson lands easily and believably in the shoes of this character. She is at her strongest showing off her comedic timing and delivery but is also quiet of capable of getting serious, as her character develops inner strength throughout the production.
Forced into hiding, Deloris lands under the care and protection of Mother Superior, played flawlessly by Anne Acerno. Acerno is a masterful actress, who seems to know exactly how to capitalize on the humor of a line without making any of her delivery feel forced. Her beautiful vocals are the icing on the cake of her hysterical and touching performance.
Also part of Deloris’ new life are a crazy cast of nuns that fill that choir. The nuns, with their unique personalities and endless energy, also get to show off a lot of the careful design put into the production by Director Allan Herlinger and Choreographer Becky Titelman. Thrown in every scene and music number are entertaining bits and little touches, as the elder Sister Mary Theresa (Pam Provins) may need some help learning the steps or the choir infuses the sign of the cross into a sizzling dance move. The women in the habits take this direction and run with it, creating distinct personas. Sister Mary Patrick (Elizabeth Marion) with her nonstop jabber and Sister Mary Lazarus (Mary Guay Kramer) with her new gift for rapping especially standout among the group. As Sister Mary Robert (Sophia Williams), seemed to be battling with a voice about to fall to illness, but she persevered through with great energy and vigor.
Although the ladies are most of the predominant roles, it was three gentlemen who stole the show. Just to see “Lady in the Long Black Dress” is worth every penny of the admission price. As Joey, Eric Bray demonstrates what comedic perfection looks like. Every move, every facial expression, and every note is solid gold. Add in TJ (Chuck Hamrick) and Pablo (played in this performance by Terry D’Onofrio) with their smooth and ridiculous performances, and it is impossible to stop laughing long enough to breathe during this song.
The other featured males in the production do struggle a little more to hit the mark. As Eddie Souther, Falan Laguerre is inconsistent in his performance. When his vocals hit the mark, he has a tone quality that can’t be beat, and, when he hits a spoken line just right, he lights up the stage with charisma. Unfortunately, Laguerre would alternate between this level of performance and seeming to retreat into himself. This may have been opening night jitters that hopefully resolved in subsequent performances, as he does have great potential. As far as Curtis (Chris Barsam), it is unclear what the vision or direction was supposed to be. Although Barsam looks the part, he consistently struggles with both the vocals and line delivery. Even with the phenomenal back-up and one of the better pieces of writing in the score, “When I Find My Baby” falls flat with Barsam at the helm.
Sister Act has some flaws, mostly unavoidable or easily fixable as the production goes along, but it has even more strengths. Everything taken into account, it is most definitely an enjoyable production and a fun evening. Luckily for all, there is still one more weekend to head to Havre de Grace and “Raise Your Voice” along with this stellar cast and production team.
This is what I thought of Scottfield Theatre Company’s production of Sister Act… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Sister Act will run through April 14 at Scottfield Theatre Company, The Cultural Center at the Opera House, 121 N. Union Avenue, Havre de Grace, MD. For tickets, the box office is open one hour prior to performance but it is strongly encouraged to purchase tickets online.
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