By Staff Writer Sabrina Cai
On the opening night of Stage 1 Theatre’s yearly musical production, the audience’s energy buzzed through the air as they gathered to watch a musical rendition of the hit 1992 film SISTER ACT. The strong cast, light-hearted script, and upbeat bops made for an enjoyable production staged at Newark Memorial High School.
The musical follows lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier (Marla Cox) who, after witnessing her lover (Jamari McGee) commit a murder, runs to the police department. There, she meets Eddie Souther (Neil Pomerleau), a detective who decides to relocate her to a convent for witness protection. After upending the lives of the resident sisters with her boisterous fish-out-of-the-water personality, Mother Superior (Ruth Sieber) assigns Cartier to the church choir, an ensemble that soon gains national attention.
Overall, there is no weak link in the musical’s talented cast. In particular, the spunky role of Deloris gives Cox the perfect opportunity to show her strong vocals and clever comedic timing. From rather light-hearted songs like “Fabulous, Baby!” to heavier, more emotional ballads like the titular “Sister Act,” Cox’s soulful voice never fails to deliver smooth and beautiful riffs. Cox also nails Deloris’s feisty behavior with her sarcastic wit and malapropisms, but is still able to encapsulate the emotion behind pivotal moments in Deloris’s search for guidance.
Another standout performance was by Pomerleau, who perfectly embodies the character of Edie Souther. By highlighting his awkwardness around girls and determination to break away from his high school shyness,, he remains relatable and humorous through the entire production. In addition, Pomerleau was able to showcase his vocal abilities with his solo track “I Could Be That Guy.” Indeed, a quick onstage costume change during this song gets him one of the loudest cheers of the night.
Despite the stellar cast, there were some technical issues backstage during this performance that hindered the production. Although this is only one performance of many, throughout the entire play, the sound system seemed to lag and sporadically turn on and off, making it difficult to distinguish the dialogue. At some points, the background sound effects even overpowered the volume of the character’s monologues. Luckily, due to the intimate performance venue, the musical was still largely understandable and enjoyable.
Despite the audio issues, one of the major highlights of this production, the live music ensemble, remained unaffected. There were a total of twelve musicians playing a myriad of orchestral instruments beneath the stage. There were a variety of pieces that the ensemble mastered, encompassing both jazz and hip hop. The ensemble played seamlessly, smoothly transitioning from one song to the next, adding extra pizazz to the musical numbers and earning smiles from audience members down below.
SISTER ACT’s live soundtrack combined with its actors’ outstanding performances ended up outshining its few technical issues. To those who are worried that this production will not meet expectations, the already humorous movie was adapted wonderfully by Stage 1 Theatre and makes for a musical that is well worth the watch.