Thursday, February 24, 2011

CASTING: Sister Act

Sister Act is one of three major musicals opening this spring that is based on a film.  And of the three, Sister Act seems the most obvious for a screen to stage transfer.  Sure, drag queens and con men with imaginations to match their schemes are ripe for musicalization, but the film on which this show is based is probably the most like a musical already.  I mean in the film the main characters all sing and dance - the lead by virtue of being a Vegas lounge singer, the supporting cast by virtue of being a choral group.  Still, that doesn't necessarily mean the property is ready to give the characters more reasons to sing and dance.  And yet here we are.  After a successful run on London's West End, the show comes to Broadway, produced by its original star, Whoopi Goldberg, and starring Olivier nominated Patina Miller.  The show will be directed by multi-Tony winner Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Anthony van Laast of Mamma Mia! fame.  With what is reported to be a completely revised book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, and a score by Academy Award winner Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, all of the pieces seem to be in place.

Being in the shadow of such a popular film might be off-putting.  And, a cast of nuns and criminals could be a hard sell if the cast isn't just so, no matter how beloved the original is.  That said, recent cast announcements give me faith (pardon my vernacular) the things are moving in the right direction, potential-wise.  I love the film version - every time it is on TV, no matter where it is in the story, I watch from that point on.  So I have been wary of the stage version.  I sincerely hope that it as much fun as they say it is, and that I leave the theatre loving this new take on a favorite story.

The major thing that has shifted my view more positively is the casting of the glorious musical theatre actress Victoria Clark as the Mother Superior.  She has nothing in common with the delicious Maggie Smith, and since they couldn't get her, perhaps it bodes well that they have cast someone completely against the original.  And let's face it, Ms. Clark is no slouch on the stage.  I can't wait to see what she does with the role, and I just pray they give her some excellent material to work with.

Friends and followers of this blog have been long on praise for the show's lead, Patina Miller.  Anyone with an opinion on her has told me she simply oozes charisma.  Most saw her in Central Park in the Hair revival, but one reader told me she saw the show in London and found Ms. Miller to be hilarious and "easy to watch."  And, heck, if Whoopi approved her, what better hands could we be in?

So, what about the supporting cast and ensemble?  Like most of the Broadway shows this season, it is a splendid mix of veterans, up and comers and debutantes.

The supporting company includes: Fred Applegate (Young Frankenstein, La Cage aux Folles) as Monsignor, Sarah Bolt (Wicked) as Sister Mary Patrick, John Treacy Egan (The Producers, The Little Mermaid) as Joey, Demond Green (The Toxic Avenger) as TJ, Chester Gregory (Dreamgirls, Tarzan) as Eddie, Kingsley Leggs (The Color Purple) as Curtis, Marla Mindelle (South Pacific) as Sister Mary Robert, Audrie Neenan (Picnic) as Sister Mary Lazarus and Caesar Samayoa (The Pee-wee Herman Show) as Pablo.

The ensemble includes: Jennifer Allen (Memphis, A Catered Affair), Natalie Bradshaw (Hair), Charl Brown (debut), Christina DeCicco (The MarvelousWonderettes, Wicked National Tour), Holly Davis (debut), Madeleine Doherty (The Producers), Alan H. Green (Play On!), Blake Hammond (Hairspray, Elf: The Musical), Wendy James (Irving Berlin's White Christmas), Carrie A. Johnson (debut), Kevin Ligon (Finian's Rainbow, The Producers), Louise Madison (debut), Marissa Perry (Hairspray), Ernie Pruneda (debut), Corbin Reid (debut),  Lance Roberts (The Pee-wee Herman Show), Rashidra Scott (Hair, Avenue Q), Jennifer Simard (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Shrek), Lael Van Keuren (debut), Roberta Wall (debut) and Alena Watters (The Addams Family, West Side Story).

Here are the sisters in action from The View:

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