The musical theater version of the 1990s cult film “Sister Act” will bring singing nuns and gangsters to the Fox Theatre stage April 23-28.
The musical features original music by eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, who also wrote music for “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Based on the movie that starred Academy Award-winner Whoopi Goldberg, the stage production of “Sister Act” follows Deloris Van Cartier, a lounge singer who witnesses a crime committed by her gangster boyfriend. Her life is turned topsy-turvy when the cops insist that Deloris the diva must go into a witness protection program at a convent, where she will pose as just another nun.
This forces her to give up a life of glitz and glamour for one of piousness and prayer. As a suspicious and often disapproving Mother Superior looks on, Deloris helps her fellow nuns find their voices and a sense of rhythm, while at the same time, she finds her sense of self.
The theater version of the show is a little different from the movie. While the movie was set in the 1990s in Reno, Nevada, the stage production is set in Philadelphia in the 1970s, giving it more sparkle and a disco feel.
The lead role of Deloris is played by Ta’rea Campbell, whose previous Broadway credits include “Leap of Faith,” “The Book of Mormon,” “The Lion King” (Nala), “Aida” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” She also has performed regionally in “Caroline or Change” and internationally as the lead singer at the 2010 Calgary Stampede in Canada.
A native of Philadelphia and graduate of Marymount Manhattan College, Campbell was awarded the Gold Medal for Excellence in Acting after receiving her degree in theater.
The role of Curtis Jackson, Deloris’ bad-boy boyfriend, is played by Kingsley Leggs, who has appeared on Broadway in “Miss Saigon” and “The Color Purple”as the original Mister. He has been in the touring shows of “Miss Saigon,” “Ragtime,” “It Ain’t Nothing but the Blues” and “Forbidden Hollywood.”
One of Curtis Jackson’s “goons,” who is helping him find Deloris, is his nephew TJ, played by Charles Barksdale, who has performed in musicals including “Dreamgirls,” “Footloose,” ” Cinderella,” “Damn Yankees,” “Smokey Joe’s Café,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Big River,” “Zombie Prom” and “Bye, Bye Birdie,” among others.
Barksdale said the highlight of the musical is when Deloris stands alone on stage and belts out a song of self-revelation called “Sister Act,” demonstrating the “power-house” talent of Ta’rea Campbell. “The song addresses the things she learned in the convent and shows her figuring out the next step,” Barksdale said. “She’s amazing.”
While the TJ character is a villain, he offers a bundle of laughs for the audience, Barksdale said. “He’s like a giant kid. He’s really silly,” Barksdale said. “He’s all about comic timing and comic relief.”
Unlike some of the darker and more brooding Broadway shows, like “Les Miserable” and “Phantom of the Opera,” Barksdale said “Sister Act” will have the audience laughing out loud and will have them walking away with a sense of joy.
“The audience leaves this show feeling happy and feeling good,” said Barksdale. “They’ll still be dancing and still singing. It’s a good feeling.”