“Sister Act” provides musical spectacle

The recent run of the St. Olaf Theater Deptartment’s recent production of “Sister Act,” based on the hit 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, was glorious and blasphemously entertaining. Set in 1977 Philadelphia, the show, which ran from Feb. 8 to 13, took a cheeky, groovy and exuberant look at love, acceptance and self-identity.

The musical was directed by Professor of Theater Karen Peterson Wilson ’77 and tells the story of Doloris Van Cartier (Kaci Campbell ’19), a nightclub singer placed in a witness protection program after witnessing a murder. Doloris, aka “Lady Fabulous,” hides as a nun in a struggling convent. She uses her musical talent to turn the church, and its inadequate church choir, upside down. The storyline starts out slow, but as it progresses, the show gets better, funnier and sparklier.

Nobody would believe “Sister Act” was performed after only one month of rehearsals. During the month of January, students enrolled in the “Producing Theater” interim class set to work on mounting the show. After only 19 rehearsals and three dress rehearsals, the ensemble built, teched and performed a full-length musical. In a nearly impossible time frame, the group presented a remarkable show.

In order to accomodate the condensed time frame, the ensemble took a creative risk with the set. Rather than building a cathedral in Kelsey Theater, they went minimal. They projected each scene’s backdrop onto a screen. The risk paid off. The projected set allowed for seamless transitions and scenes that may have been impossible otherwise.

Costume coordinator Aimee Jillson dazzled the audience with sequined nuns’ robes. She truly brought the outfit out of the fourth century. The choreography, although occasionally gaudy, was highly energized and at times comically ironic. The audience loved the chorus line of nuns grooving while belting their hearts out.

“I really like the show. The songs are so catchy,” Alyanna Parajado ’20 said.

The music had a disco-inspired score akin to the show “Dreamgirls.” Stellar numbers include the high-spirited “Sunday Morning Fever,” the emotional “The Life I Never Led” sung by the talented Katie Howrey ’19, and the comically awkward “I Could Be That Guy” sung by Josh Horst ’19.

The cast was full of standout performers. The hilarity and talent exploded from the stage every time the nuns stepped out. From the stern Mother Superior (Kim Sesvold ’18) to the old yet fiesty Sister Mary Theresa (Sally Olmstead ’20), the group held a diversity that kept the audience entertained.

And of course, “Sister Act” would not be “Sister Act” without Doloris Van Cartier. Campbell led the show with her fiery attitude, her powerful voice and her electric stage presence in her first leading role at St. Olaf.

“The show has shown me I can take myself seriously as an actress because I’ve always considered myself a singer,” Campbell said.

Glitzy, talent-filled, scandalous and fun, “Sister Act” left the audience clapping their hands and singing along. “Sister Act” is feel-good entertainment that beats any typical class assignment. And, especially after only a month of preparation, the ensemble should be praised for their heavenly performance. Well done, “Sister Act.”