Lead performer makes a joyful noise in Metropolis' revival of 'Sister Act'

  • Natalie "Nat" Renee Savoy, center, plays Deloris Van Cartier, an aspiring lounge singer who hides out in a convent after she witnesses a mob-related murder in the musical "Sister Act." Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's revival co-stars Ania Martin, left, and Amber Parker as Deloris' backup singers, Tina and Michelle.

    Natalie "Nat" Renee Savoy, center, plays Deloris Van Cartier, an aspiring lounge singer who hides out in a convent after she witnesses a mob-related murder in the musical "Sister Act." Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's revival co-stars Ania Martin, left, and Amber Parker as Deloris' backup singers, Tina and Michelle. Courtesy of Ellen Prather

 
 
Posted7/28/2022 6:00 AM

"Sister Act" -- ★ ★

"Sister Act," the musical adapted from the film starring Whoopi Goldberg as an unwitting witness to a mob hit forced to hide out at a convent, requires a lead with a big personality. Part of the reason is Goldberg herself, a big personality whose shadow looms over this adaptation of the hit 1992 film. Part of it has to do with the show itself.

 

A middling musical with a pleasant if not especially memorable pop- and gospel-tinged score, "Sister Act" relies on shtick, wisecracks and double-entendres to convert audiences. For that reason, the Alan Menken-Glenn Slater tuner (with a book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner and additional material by Douglas Carter Beane) requires an inspirational lead. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's revival has one in Natalie "Nat" Renee Savoy.

"Sister Act" needs a star of outsize talent and Metropolis Performing Arts Centre found one in Natalie "Nat" Renee Savoy, who plays Deloris Van Cartier in the theater's revival of the 2006 musical.
"Sister Act" needs a star of outsize talent and Metropolis Performing Arts Centre found one in Natalie "Nat" Renee Savoy, who plays Deloris Van Cartier in the theater's revival of the 2006 musical. - Courtesy of Ellen Prather

A winning presence with a hearty voice, Savoy plays aspiring lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier. We meet Deloris along with backup singers Michelle (Amber Parker) and Tina (Ania Martin) during the trio's audition for nightclub owner Curtis (Jonathan Cortez), Deloris' married, mobster boyfriend.

After witnessing Curtis off one of his henchman, Deloris reports the murder to Eddie (Kedar Miller, a newcomer with potential), a former high school classmate turned Philadelphia peace officer who informs her she's next on Curtis' hit list.

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Sister Mary Robert (Justine Cameron), center, finds her voice in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's "Sister Act." The production also features Ania Martin, left, Amber Parker, Michelle Tibble and Natalie Henry. Understudy Athena Kopulos performed in place of Cameron during the performance the Daily Herald reviewed.
Sister Mary Robert (Justine Cameron), center, finds her voice in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's "Sister Act." The production also features Ania Martin, left, Amber Parker, Michelle Tibble and Natalie Henry. Understudy Athena Kopulos performed in place of Cameron during the performance the Daily Herald reviewed. - Courtesy of Ellen Prather

Eddie proposes hiding her at a declining convent in a parish whose church is to be sold to bachelor antique dealers. Pressured by the monsignor (Christopher Johnson), Lauren Miller's Mother Superior agrees to give Deloris sanctuary. Finding it difficult to adapt to a quiet life out of the spotlight, Deloris sneaks out to a nearby bar, trailed by the perpetually ebullient Sister Mary Patrick (the delightful Natalie Henry) and a nervous novice, Sister Mary Robert (Athena Kopulos, in place of Justine Cameron).

The nuns find their groove in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's revival of "Sister Act," the musical adapted from the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg.
The nuns find their groove in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's revival of "Sister Act," the musical adapted from the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg. - Courtesy of Ellen Prather

It's only after Mother Superior assigns her to lead the convent choir that Deloris finds her calling, molding the nuns into a heavenly ensemble showcased in rafter-shaking numbers "Raise Your Voice" and a reprise of the show-opening "Take Me to Heaven" whose lyrics take on a more sacred meaning sung by sisters in the faith. Before long, the glitzed-up choir is packing the pews and making the news and alerting Curtis and his thugs to Deloris' whereabouts. Of course, all ends happily, but not before some soul searching on the part of several characters, including the Mother Superior who questions her faith and Mary Robert who wonders about secular life in "The Life I Never Led," a soaring number, gloriously sung by Kopulos. Then there's Savoy, whose heartfelt performance of the titular, 11 o'clock number testifies to a woman realizing the bond she established with her "sisters" fulfills her more than fame ever could.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Mother Superior (Lauren Miller), left, instructs Deloris (Natalie "Nat" Renee Savoy) in the proper habits of a nun in "Sister Act," running through Aug. 27 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.
Mother Superior (Lauren Miller), left, instructs Deloris (Natalie "Nat" Renee Savoy) in the proper habits of a nun in "Sister Act," running through Aug. 27 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. - Courtesy of Ellen Prather

Director Sade' May's production benefits from the dynamic Kopulos and newcomer Henry as well as veterans Mary Heyl, Sister Mary-Martin-of-Tours, and the terrific Michelle Tibble, who plays the wisecracking Sister Mary Lazarus. That said, some of the performances feel tentative and lack polish. Clunky scene changes slow the show's momentum and there are times when the writing lacks grace. I have to confess that Deloris describing herself pretending to be a nun as going "incognegro" made me cringe.

And while this production of "Sister Act" isn't quite divine, there's promise in the artists Metropolis has assembled.

• • •

Location: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, (847) 577-2121, metropolisarts.com

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday through Aug. 27

Running time: About 2 hours, 35 minutes, with intermission

Tickets: $40

Parking: Nearby garage and street parking

Rating: For teens and older, contains some violence, including gunshot sounds

COVID-19 precautions: Masking optional

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