The tuner version of the 1992 hit film “Sister Act” opened on Broadway Wednesday to overall good reviews. “Sister Act” has been revised somewhat since it ran in London last year. Patina Miller, who earned an Olivier nod, debuts on Broadway as Deloris Van Cartier, the lounge singer hiding out in the nunnery. Whoopi Goldberg, who made that role so memorable in the movie, is one of the producers of this Broadway musical. Grand slam awards champ Goldberg got her Tony for producing the 2002 Best Musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Victoria Clark, who won the 2005 Best Musical Actress Tony Award for “Light in the Piazza,” takes on role of the tart-tongued nun played on film by two-time Oscar champ Maggie Smith (“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” “California Suite”).
Recent Best Song Oscar nominees Alan Menken and Glenn Slater (“I See the Light” from “Tangled) penned the music and lyrics while two-time Tony nominee Douglas Carter Beane revised the book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner. Four-time Tony champ Jerry Zaks directed the production. “Sister Act” should reap a slew of Tony nominations when they are announced May 3. Its toughest competition may be “The Book of Mormon,” a new musical that takes a much tougher look at organized religion.
For Elysa Gardner (USA Today), “‘Sister Act’ may be less giddily profane, and thought-provoking, than ‘The Book of Mormon,’ but it has its own distinct and surprising charms. Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater provide original tunes that nod cheekily, but with genuine affection, to that pop era while also propelling the story with a style and exuberance specific to well-crafted musical theater.
Mark Kennedy (AP) thought, “This is a musical that hits all the right spots, achieving something close to Broadway grace. It helps that the musical has great original tunes by songwriter Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater that skitters from Motown, to soul and funk, to disco and even a little jokey Barry White. Menken and Slater, who also teamed up for ‘The Little Mermaid,’ know perfectly how to switch up the mood and tempo.”
However, as Charles Isherwood (New York Times) noted, “I wish I could report that the singing nuns from the Church of Philly Soul are giving those perky Mormons in Africa a run for their money in the unholy hilarity department. But when the jubilant choral numbers subside, as inevitably they must, ‘Sister Act’ slumps back into bland musical-theater grooves and mostly lacks the light of invigorating inspiration.”