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'Sister Act': Catchy tunes, comedic moments coalesce in light-hearted musical.

The story remained mostly untouched: An aspiring diva chances upon his mobster boyfriend commit a murder, sending her scampering for help from the police.

She is then placed under a witness protection program at a convent connected to a floundering church. And there, she wrestles with tradition, as she turns a choir of pitchy nuns into a singing ensemble worthy of performing for the pope.

But this touring stage adaptation of 'Sister Act'-which will run from June 27 to July 9 at The Theatre at Solaire-features a crucial change; one that gives the show a vibe that is refreshingly different from that of the hit comedy film it was based on.

While the movie that starred Whoopi Goldberg is set in San Francisco in the early 1990s, the musical's timeline is transported to late '70s Philadelphia-a deft move that allowed acclaimed composer Alan Menken to weave a score that harnesses the vibrancy of the thriving musical genres of that particular place and era: soul, disco, rhythm and blues.

Opening the show, Deloris van Cartier (played by Dene Hill), along with two backup vocalists, belt out (and shimmy) in unison a la The Supremes to 'Take Me to Heaven'-a number that is as sassy and brassy as the lead character herself.

Eddie (Will Travis), the shy and antsy police officer who has had a longtime crush on Deloris, expresses his yearning to shed his inhibitions through the smoky, soulful midtempo jam, 'I Could Be That Guy.'

Deloris' villainous beau, Curtis (Brandon Godfrey), on the other hand, dishes out a doo-wop number with his three scatterbrained henchmen.

When eventually the choir of spiritless sisters gets its act together by 'raising their voices' and letting their 'freak fly,' the MasterCard Theatre at the Marina Bay Sands brims with the joyous energy of their singing. And just for good measure, the nuns perform some of such numbers wearing shiny, jazzed-up habits, at the church's transept that could have very well been a disco floor.

There is, of course, the requisite dose of soaring, gospel-inflected ballads.

In 'Here Within These Walls,' Deloris' brashness and pop-leaning singing style is juxtaposed with the severe demeanor of Mother Superior (Rebecca Mason-Wygal), who employs a more classical approach, as she lays down the ground rules in the convent.

Deloris (second from right) runs to a police station.

Sister Mary Robert (Sophie Kim), the meek postulant most curious about outside life, also gets to own a shining moment, with 'The Life I Never Led,' in which she reflects about never having 'quite dared to leave myself bared.'

Though the plot wears thin at some points, the comedy is always reliable-whether it's from slapstick chase sequences, wisecracking banter ('We put the 'sis' in Genesis!'), or simply from seeing Deloris trying mightily-and failing-

to rein in her sauciness amid the rigidness of the environment she finds herself in.

The song 'It's Good to Be a Nun,' in particular, elicits hearty laughter, while the nuns sardonically enumerate the joys of living in a convent, such as waking up at 4 a.m. to meditate, read scriptures until their eyes glazed and, not to mention, 'all the sexual abstention.'

Toward the end, you might find yourself waiting for 'I Will Follow Him,' the movie's signature anthem. Well, it isn't here. But this light-hearted theater production provides just enough catchy tunes that will leave people humming and clapping to the beat.

The Manila leg of 'Sister Act' is presented by Ovation Productions (call 8919999). The show features music by Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and a book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jun 12, 2017
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