Sister Act-The Musical a gay romp by Theatre Rhino.

The Cast of SISTER ACT, directed by AeJay Mitchell. A Theatre Rhinoceros Production at the Gateway Theatre. Photo by David Wilson.

SISTER ACT – THE MUSICAL.Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Glenn Slater, Book by Bill & Cheri Steinkellner. Additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane. Direction/Choreography by AeJay Mitchell. Rhino Theatre Co., Gateway Theatre – 215 Jackson St., (at Battery St.) San Francisco, CA. Tickets: -800-838-3006 or May 17-June 1, 2019

Sister Act-The Musical a gay romp by Theatre Rhino. Rating: ★★★★☆

This reviewer has never seen the block buster 1992 movie Sister Act that starred the incomparable Whoopi Goldberg that was turned into an outrageous stage musical hitting Broadway in 2011. Since that time The Musical has been making the rounds of community theaters. It has now landed at the Gateway Theatre shaking the stage and thrilling the audience. Theatre Rhinoceros is the longest running LGBT theatre in the nation and Artistic Director John Fisher received permission from Music Theatre International to switch the gender of the characters resulting in a stage full of men and women in drag being led by full bodied drag queen Branden Noel Thomas in the starring role. He is only one of the  non-gender specific cast members. You have got to see it to believe it . . . and you should grab a ticket for what is sure to be a sold out two week run.

Incomparable Thomas plays Deloris Van Cartier a striving diva working in a Philadelphia dive trying to gain star billing elswere. The show opens with Deloris and backup singers bringing the klieg lights down with “Take Me to Heaven” and “Fabulous Baby” setting the tone for an evening of fun with more than a few feel good aphorisms and wishful thinking. Unfortunately Deloris she has witnessed Curtis (Crystal Liu) her gangster boyfriend bump-off a member of his gang. 

L to R: Kim Larsen as Mother Superior and Branden Noel Thomas* and Paul Lopez as Mary Theresa as Deloris in SISTER ACT, directed by AeJay Mitchell. A Theatre Rhinoceros Production at the Gateway Theatre. Photo by David Wilson.

Detective “Sweaty” Eddie (Jarrett Holley) an old school chum puts Deloris in protective custody. Where else but in a rundown nunnery with Mother Superior (Kim K. Larsen) laying down the law about expected behavior. You know that is not to be and there are more than a few humorous to hilarious scenes as Deloris tries to adjust as she bonds with the nuns and runs afoul of Sister Superior.

Then there is the dreary choir who can’t sing on key that needs shaking up and Deloris does just that molding them into a unit with a more than a modicum of pizazz that earns them international fame, a huge congregation donating enough money to pay off all the debts of the church and a performance for the Pope.  

Before all that happens there is an ill-advised trip to a speakeasy by Deloris, Sister Mary Patrick (Anna Smith) and Sister Mary Robert (Abigail Campbell) that tips-off Curtis and his gang where Deloris is hiding. This will lead to some unbelievable attempts to do the dastardly deed of knocking-off Deloris with a final rescue by “I Could Be the Guy” Eddie.

The acting and singing by the cast and ensemble are markedly uneven but enthusiasm reigns with sparkling interludes overcoming any deficiency. Abigail Campbell received thunderous applause for her rendition of “The Life I Never Led.” Kim K. Larsen a local favorite on many local stages softens the harsh exterior of Sister Superior with the plaintive “I Haven’t Got a Prayer.” The trio of Abraham Baldonado, John Charles Quimpo and Joyce Domanico-Huh has great fun with “Lady in the Long Black Dress.”

Although AeJ Mitchell’s direction and choreography are not up to the standards he displayed in Pricilla, Queen of the Desert, he does an admirable job of maintaining controlled chaos befitting the mood of the play earning appreciative laughs mingled with applause at every turn.

The black unadorned nun mufti are jettisoned for colorful must be seen to be believed costumes with sequins galore by David F. Draper in the final scenes that lead to the uplifting “Spread the Love Around” with a standing ovation for the entire evening that earns a solid should see rating.

Running time about 2 hours with an intermission.

CAST: Abraham Baldonado, Abigail Campbell, Joyce Domanico-Huh, Olivia Dunnn , Jarrett Holley, Kim K. Larsen, Paul Loper, Lisa McHenry, , Claire Pearson, Tavia Percia, JC Quimpo, Anna Smith, Branden Noel Thomas, Dee Wagner.

Tech Credits: AeJay Mitchell  (Director and Choreographer); Sebastian Attardo (Set Construction); David Draper(Costume Designer); Tammy L. Hall(Music Director), Sean Keehan (Lighting Designer); Erik Flatmo (Set Designer); ; Isaac Traiseter (Stage Manager).

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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