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March 20, 2012 - by Griffin Miller
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Fact: When you have a hit show with a hefty run under its belt, sooner or later major cast changes are inevitable. Such is the case with Sister Act, an irresistible musical engine that hasn’t stopped firing on every entertainment cylinder imaginable since it opened on Broadway a year ago this month. Which is not to say this has been a revolving door of a production. Just the opposite considering that until last November -- when Tony nominee Carolee Carmello stepped into Mother’s Superior’s nun’s habit (hung up by Tony winner Victoria Clark) -- the company was the same as it was on opening night.
My guess -- since this is one of those feel-good shows that never gets old -- the cast is having as much fun as the audience. I know I’d have a hard time saying good-bye to the adrenaline high that comes across during every one of Alan Menken and Glenn Slater’s show-stopping numbers, choreographed with revival-meeting fervor by Anthony Van Laast.
Which no doubt explains why Patina Miller -- the acclaimed actress who originated the leading role of Delores Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence in London, and has remained with the show throughout its Broadway run -- waited so long to pass the torch. But passed it is, and who better to pick it up than Raven-Symoné -- an irresistible talent who’s been charming television audiences since she made her debut as pint-sized Olivia on The Cosby Show in 1989.
You may know her best, however, from her Emmy-nominated comedy series That’s So Raven on the Disney Channel (which earned her three NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Performance in a Youth/Children’s Series/Special and two Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards for Favorite Television Actress). And yes, her career has also been interspersed with other television series and more than a handful of movies.
But when she joined the ranks of triple-threat stage performers this March, Symoné made it clear that she was pursuing her passion for live theatre. “Performing on Broadway has always been a dream of mine and I am beyond thrilled to be making my debut with this role in such a fantastic show,” notes Symoné, praising Sister Act’s score, hilarious comic moments, “and a fabulous lead character you can root for.”
For those of you unfamiliar with the show -- and I strongly suggest you remedy that ASAP -- the plotline follows Deloris Van Cartier (Symoné), a “disco diva wannabe” whose desire to take the South Philly nightclub scene by storm is derailed big time when she witnesses a whacking and the cops decide to hide her in a convent run by a straight-laced Mother Superior (Carmello), who insists the flashy singer take on the religious alias of Sister Mary Clarence. As Deloris’s former mob boss boyfriend, Curtis (Kingsley Leggs), and his trio of chuckleheaded henchmen search for her, she finds herself turning the convent’s harmony-challenged nuns into a rafter-raising, Grammy-worthy church choir. And did I mention that the combo pack of quirky nuns and goofy gangsters adds up to farcical nirvana? It does, it does, it does.
A final note: Just prior to Symoné’s joining the show, producer Whoopi Goldberg, who played Deloris in the 1992 film upon which the musical is based, had this to say about the production’s newest convert:
“Finding an actress who can play Deloris in Sister Act is no easy feat. She’s got to sing like an angel, dance her heart out, and land some really big laughs -- and trust me, doing it all in a habit is not easy! Luckily for us, Raven is more than up to the challenge and I think audiences are going to be wowed by her performance. We couldn’t be more excited that she’s joining the company.”
Amen and halleluiah: That’s So Sister Raven!
Sister Act is playing at the Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway at 53rd St. For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or click here.
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