‘Sister Act’ at Prince William Little Theatre makes a joyful noise

The musical numbers dominate, and the enthusiasm of the women’s ensemble is totally infectious.

We all know the comedic premise — a would-be lounge singer disguises herself as a nun until she can testify against her murderous boyfriend. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, it was just a matter of time before Sister Act was brought to the Broadway stage. The musical premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse in October of 2006, 14 years after the Whoopi Goldberg movie in 1992.

Prince William Little Theatre’s production of Sister Act lets hilarity ensue as the nuns pivot from “piousness to party-time” in a musical fashion. It is a lighthearted musical comedy with underlying themes of friendship and loyalty.

Ashley Williams (Deloris Van Cartier) in ‘Sister Act.’ Photo by BM Productions.

As Deloris, Ashley Williams owns the stage from the beginning to the finale. Her natural vivacity shines in front of a live audience. She brings a loveable and mischievous nature to her character, and there’s no doubt she’s a powerhouse vocally. Williams is also able to bring a little undercurrent of sweetness to her character as she turns her flock of nuns into singing sensations. She is a delight to watch.

For me, “The Life I Never Led” portrays one of the strongest aspects of character storytelling in the show. Kudos must be given to Sophia Manicone, who knocks it out of the park not just vocally, but with a clear sense of purpose and development for the character of Postulate Mary Robert. Melanie McCleerey as Mother Superior also gives a witty performance, with a commanding singing voice to back up her “devotion.” Stacy Crickmer as Sister Mary Patrick is just pure fun onstage — her facial expressions and comic energy are entertaining to watch.

The show’s main villain, Curtis Jackson, played by Kareem Taylor, was a bit weak. Though Taylor has a good enough singing voice, his song, “When I Find My Baby,” doesn’t bring enough believable ferocity to his character. His cronies, too, played by Jim Bowen-Collinson, Christian Bustillos, and Luis Vasquez, lost the balance between humorous and over-the-top cartoonish. Tim McCleerey makes Sweaty Eddie’s solo number “I Could Be That Guy” rather comical and, at times, overdone. However, his voice seems to shine more when he professes a sweeter, more sincere interest in Deloris in the second act.

Melanie McCleerey (Mother Superior), Sophia Manicone (Sister Mary Robert), and Kareem Taylor (Curtis Jackson) in ‘Sister Act.’ Photos by BM Productions.

Chrissy Mastrangelo’s choreography is energetic and well-executed. Set Designer Nick Mastrangelo does a nice job providing just enough stained glass for a church-y atmosphere, while the rest of the set is appropriately simple and keeps the focus on the actors.

Clockwise from top left: Tim McCleerey and Ashley Williams (Sweaty Eddie and Deloris Van Cartier), Nun Ensemble, and Bob Thompson (Monsignor O’Hara) in ‘Sister Act.’ Photo by BM Productions.

This cast isn’t the most polished I’ve ever seen. And, to be honest, some of the spaces to be filled between the songs are dominated by a weak script, with lackluster jokes and overly extended chase scenes. But fortunately, the musical numbers dominate. As a whole, the enthusiasm of the women’s ensemble is totally infectious. There are some uproarious moments as they purposefully sing off-key before the choir is rescued by Deloris’s character. When they finally sing together, they blend with strong harmonies and good balance. Overall, a joyful noise.

Running Time: Two hours 15 minutes plus a 15-minute intermission.

Sister Act plays to 20, 2022, presented by Prince William Little Theatre performing in the Gregory Family Theater at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, located on the George Mason University campus at 10960 George Mason Circle in Manassas, VA. Tickets ($25 for adults, $20 for seniors/students/active military, $15 for children 12 and under) are available at the door or can be purchased online.

Upcoming performances:
Friday March 18, 2022 @ 8:00pm
Saturday March 19, 2022 @ 2:00pm
Saturday March 19, 2022 @ 8:00pm
Sunday March 20, 2022 @ 2:00pm

COVID Safety: All attendees regardless of age must be fully vaccinated by the date of their visit and present proof of vaccination or show a negative COVID-19 test result. Face coverings are required indoors for ages two and up. The complete Hylton Performing Arts Center vaccination policy is here.

SEE ALSO: Prince William Little Theatre to present feel-good ‘Sister Act’


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