BY SANDY STAGGS
Spartanburg Little Theatre follows up its stunning The Great Gatsby with the long-awaited Whoopi Goldberg classic Sister Act in the penultimate production of the company’s historic 75th season.
Simone Mack-Orr reprises the role she first performed in 2017 at Centre Stage in Greenville as the ex-catholic lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier in this show some two years in the making due to Covid cancellation.
Mack-Orr, also part of the musical component of The Great Gatsby, easily gives one of the finest performances of the season and her Dolores has a softer edge this time around as the girlfriend on the run after witnessing a murder by her club owner and mob boyfriend Curtis Jackson (Tylan James).
Hidden away in a faltering convent by Detective Eddie Souther (the always outstanding K. Ray Jones), Deloris butts heads with the traditional-minded Mother Superior (a fabulous Lori Guthrie) and overnight saves the convent and church from closure by turning the dismal choir into a show chorus fit for the Pope.
The cast is enormous (14 or more singing nuns) with standout performances all around: Caroline Foster and Jessie Cantrell as Deloris’ backup singers; Malcom McClure as Monsignor O’Hara; Sarah Hubbard as the always-cheerful Sister Mary Patrick (the Kathy Najimy role) and Hannah Searcy as the nun who shines in song, Sister Mary Robert. And lest we forget Peggy Magarahan as the rapping Sister Mary Lazurus, who gets the best lines in this show.
The hapless squad of ever-bumbling Keystone mobsters is played by Kordell Hemphill, Perrion Porter, and Jon Garner.
Sister Act features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, with a book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner.
Sadly, there are no Motown hits in the stage version, but a few numbers stand out: “Take Me to Heaven,” “Fabulous Baby!”, Guthrie’s “Here Within These Walls,” and the finale “Raise Your Voice.”
Jay E. Coffman, Executive Artistic Director of SLT, directs this enterprising and entertaining production with non-stop choreography by Kristofer Parker, glimmering costumes by Kennedy Roberts, who built several super-impressive surprise costume reveals (no Spoilers!), and flanked by Clint Walker’s gorgeous set design bedazzled by stained glass, brilliantly lit by Peter Lamson’s lighting plot. And all of this is backed by as 12-piece band (Joy Finch is music director and LeRoy Kennedy is conductor).
Sister Act continues through May 15 at Chapman Cultural Center, 200 E. St. John St in Spartanburg. For tickets, visit chapmanculturalcenter.org or call (864) 583-2776.