“Sister Act” Shakes it at Covedale
Review by Sherri Ogden Wellington
Music, comedy, dancing and nuns…what more could you want for a night out on the town? Sister Act is playing through November 13 at Covedale. Yes! It is a musical comedy based on the 1992 film and Yes! It has the beat, the moves and the grooves of the movie. Yet it is distinctly its own. Tia Seay, who plays the struggling singer, girlfriend of a mobster and eventual coryphaeus (like that? It is a fancy term for the leader of a choir) of a nunnery, belts out a song like nobody’s business.
To set the stage: Delores Van Cartier (Tia Seay) witnesses a murder by her mobster boyfriend, Curtis Shank (Jazz McMullen). She goes to the police who put her in hiding in a convent/church to protect her. The policeman who is in charge of protecting Delores is Eddie Southern aka Sweaty Eddie is played by William Gibson. Delores takes over as the coryphaeus (good for you remembering what that means!) so that she can be of service to the church.
Then there is the Mother Superior (Michelle Shaffer) who is against the placement of Delores in their midst and Monsignor O’Hara (John Langley) who is quite loving the entire experience. There are 11 nuns with five standing out. Did you know that all of the nuns’ first names are Mary? (I bet you didn’t know that you would learn so much when reading this review!) For example, Delores’ name as a nun is Sister Mary Clarence. Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours (Carly Shepherd) appears to have some form of Tourettes Syndrome where she yells out random comments. Sr. Mary Robert (Hayley Warfel) is the novice/postulant who is still questioning where she belongs in the world and adores Delores. Sr. Teresa/Michelle (Elizabeth Taylor) and Sr. Mary Patrick (Clare Hingsbergen) are amazing singers and bring joy and laughter to the stage.
You’ll meet Curtis’ men are TJ (Christopher Wells), Joey (R. DeAndre’ Smith), Paul (William Boatwright, Jr.) and Ernie (Nick Godfrey) who is quickly killed off due to being a police informant. Needless to say, the nun’s choir is so amazing the pope has to come over from Rome (Really? The pope? Artistic license, I suppose).
Sister Act is 2 hours and 15 minutes long. The first half goes by so fast, you are surprised that it is already intermission. You’ll be drawn in by the shifting between how the joyful nuns are responding to Sr. Mary Clarence to the worries of Mother Superior then on to Curtis and his henchmen, then to Eddie who is in love with Delores. Audiences are focused and thoroughly entertained. Clearly the humor is continuous with all the various forms of comedy you can find. For example, physical comedy is strong with old Sr. Mary Lazarus (Lysha Ingle Broad) shuffling and TJ. (Christopher Wells) expressions, jumps and leaps makes one have to laugh. Kudos go out to Christopher Wells whose energy, humor and wardrobe steals the henchmen scenes.
Next, the altar boys/stretcher medics/ensemble members, Nick Godfrey and Justin Reilmann, will dance into your heart and tickle your funny bone. The funniest scene in Sister Act, in this poor writer’s opinion, however, is when Curtis sings “When I Find My Baby” with Boatwright, Wells and Smith as back up. He sings it like a love song while describing how he is going to kill her. Boy, it doesn’t sound funny when it is put that way, but really, it is extremely funny. I think.
The biggest surprise is the finale, in this humble servant’s opinion. Tia Seay gradually appears more and more relaxed throughout the play and in the end leads her crew to burst out in song “Spread the Love Around” and “Raise Your Voice”. Okay, hairs on your arm might stand out at this point. Even the curtain call is fun.
One of the standouts besides Seay includes William Gibson, a Senior at Kent State. He is a confident actor and singer. His smile and physicality draw the audience into his character. Elizabeth Leigh Taylor and Hayley Warfel have beautiful voices which add so much to the musical. Michelle Shaffer is a perfect choice for Mother Superior. She plays the role to perfection. All in all, it is an amazing cast!
It is so easy to forget those behind the scenes. I thought there was a live orchestra and looked several times to make sure that there wasn’t. The Music Director, Mark Femia, is incredibly talented. The co-choreographers, Jay and Jenny Goodlett make the dancing engaging and simply fun. The costumes are extremely impressive. Joy Galbraith (Costumer Designer) and Elizabeth M. Galbraith (Costume Assistant) are obviously talented in making the audience believe in the actor’s role by simply looking at his/her wardrobe. The only concern is poor Ms. Seay having to keep pulling her gold nightclub dress down to cover certain areas! The stage and scenery are very versatile and attractive. And finally, Dee Anne Bryll (Director), Tim Perrino (Executive Artistic Director) and Denny Reed (Technical Director) put it all together.
Sister Act plays through November 13, 2022. You will have a wonderful night out. So get your tickets HERE or call 513-241-6550.
Sherri Ogden Wellington has a BS and M.Ed. and had a career in education. She fell in love with the theater when given a flower by an actor during the New York performance of Hair.