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Steinhardt Brings Soul to ‘Sister Act’

By Emily Fagel, Theater and Books Editor

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Joseph Mervis

Deloris (Desiree Murphy) hides under the protection of Office "Sweaty" Eddie Souther (Shadrick Lester)

Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development put on a vibrant production of “Sister Act” at the Frederick Loewe Theatre this past Sunday night. Complete with sequin-covered habits and all, the cast and crew put on a performance comparable to the most spirited of church services.

The cast brought life to composer Alan Mencken’s tried and true soulful masterpiece through immense vocal talent. Through giving into the fun and absurdity of the show, the cast engaged with the audience members, who were ready to get right up and start dancing along at the show’s close.

The musical comedy is based on the 1992 film of the same name and premiered in 2006 at the Pasadena Playhouse to break box office records. After that, it eventually made its way to the Great White Way in 2011 and the seats of the Loewe Theatre this past weekend.

The cast was comprised of both graduate and undergraduate students from Steinhardt’s Vocal Performance program. The varying degrees of technicality amongst the ensemble seamlessly came together to form a comedic and dynamic cast.

First-year graduate student Desiree Murphy could be found in Whoopi Goldberg’s original leading role of Deloris Van Cartier. The graduate student’s star quality was enhanced when she was joined by the spirited ensemble of nuns. Far from a caricature of Goldberg’s iconic role, Murphy carried both laughs and tragedy with an ease that allowed audience members to both empathize and laugh with her all in the same scene.

A Steinhardt senior in Vocal Performance and Musical Theatre, Peyton Bias’ performance as Mary Theresa was also notable. Bias brought an inherent ingenue sweetness to an already lovable character.

The technical aspects of the show were quite noteworthy as well. This is largely due to the pristine stage production management of Elizabeth Haroian and the Broadway-caliber choreography of Natalie Wisdom, who is an adjunct instructor in Steinhardt’s Music and Performing Arts Professions.

Through dexterous costume changes, cast members like Steinhardt second-year master’s student Shadrick Lester shifted seamlessly through a sparkly suit and, later, a cop outfit. Through comedic yet sassy choreography, like the nun ensemble’s memorable bumping and grinding during “Raise Your Voice” and “Spread The Love Around,” the show truly made its mark as part of the quality entertainment that kept the seats filled and the applications coming.

These technical feats of the show worked to evoke the sense of dignity that comes with being in a cathedral, which allowed Doloris the liberty to shake it up with her showgirl skills.

While the individual performers all brought elements of hilarity, the vibrant and fun spirit of the show was most apparent when the stage was filled with the ensemble of performers, all of whom showed dedication to character through their vocal talents and comedic acting skills.

The singers truly brought the show to life, making each joke spark and each heartfelt moment linger. Meinken brought the music, and Steinhardt brought the soul.

“Sister Act” ran at the Frederick Loewe Theatre through Feb. 5.

 

Email Emily Fagel at [email protected].

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