Theatre review: Sister Act the musical
Released in 1992, the film Sister Act told the story of a wayward nightclub singer who takes shelter from the evils of the world by assimilating into a nunnery.
This energetic movie proved to be a huge success, grossing over US$231m at the box office. While Whoopi Goldberg and her naive order of nuns had cinemagoers in stitches, warranting a sequel and many DVD re-releases for years to come, not all its viewers realised what they were laughing at. It's a narrative that contrasted how the main purpose of religious vocations in real-life Christianity is to offer persons, who are willing to devote themselves to God and service of the people, refuge from the temptations and vices of the world.
Now what if a non-practising Catholic degenerate in crime-riddled Philadelphia in the swinging '60s were to seek sanctuary in an innocent convent? Funnily, it took writers and composers over a decade to figure out that the hysterical hijinks and uplifting tunes of Deloris Van Cartier and her fellow sisters were perfect for a musical.
The habits that the nuns don in Sister Act hint that they are of the Carmelite Order, which coincidentally was the order my godmother had set her heart on joining around that time. Carmelite never leave their monastery after they enter and take their final vows, which left me heartbroken from separation anxiety. Looking back, it is quite comical that my younger self sought solace that my godmother was probably having as much fun as Goldberg in St. Paul's Catholic Church, as I watched Sister Act time and again.
Just like its original big screen version, the Broadway production of Sister Act has drawn many audience members to watch it more than once. On the 25th anniversary of the movie, this jubilant juxtaposition of religious stigmas finally arrives in Singapore. While the production of Sister Act in Marina Bay Sands might not be as compelling as an actual Broadway experience in New York City, the vivacious musical makes up for this with songs and narratives that are sure to melt hearts and move butts.
With a cast led by Dené Hill, whose charisma is no less infectious than Goldberg's, this delightful ensemble each get to showcase his or her vocal range in the spotlight. Instead of Hill, the actress who has been stealing the most headlines throughout this run of Sister Act is Korean actress Sophie Kim. Born Kim So Hyang, this actress of petite frame had audiences in the MasterCard Theatre awestruck when she crushed her solo tunes with her heavyweight vocals. Who would have guessed that Kim did not speak a word of English when she first chased her musical dreams in Hollywood?
The curtain call of Sister Act's opening night in the MasterCard Theatre in Singapore was received by standing ovations by several audience members. In an age when most of our entertainment is consumed from smartphone and laptop screens, it is heartening to know that the human touch of theatre is offered refuge and kept alive by captivatingly orchestrated productions like Sister Act.
Sister Act runs till 28 May at Grand Theatre, Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands.
Andre Frois is a life-long writer and wrestler. Read more of his work on andrefrois.com and afstorytellers.com.