Fans of “Sister Act” will be delighted to know that Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre has brought the musical version of the film to stage in Lancaster, PA. It is based on the 1992 film of the same name, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, and additional material by Douglas Carter Beane. This show, with its atmospheric stage sets alternating between the psychedelic 1970s disco era and Gothic cathedral stylistics, ensures audience members are in for a special “Dutch treat!”
This Dutch Apple production is memorable both for its compelling character development as well as for excellent musical performances.
For those new to the plot, it is 1978, and directionless disco singer Deloris has witnessed a murder. She is forced to hide in a convent, where she is surrounded by nuns whom she at first finds to be unimaginative and out-of-touch, leading to amusing conflicts. Over time, however, she and the sisters develop a more positive relationship as she uses her vocal talents to teach the nearly tone-deaf nuns to sing, which also brings new worshippers to the nuns’ struggling church. This, in turn, gives Deloris a sense of direction.
This Dutch Apple production is memorable both for its compelling character development as well as for excellent musical performances. Singer Remi Veronica, who plays Dolores, is outstanding for her strong vocal ability and acting prowess as she graces the stage with her magnificent voice, most powerfully in “Sunday Morning Fever.” Even better is her journey from self-absorbed bohemian to caring member of a community. Similarly, Grace Atherholt is outstanding as the shy Sister Mary Roberts who wrestles with her choice of a convent life in her solo “The Life I Never Led.”
Another example of character growth include police officer Eddie (Rudy Foster) who learns to overcome his fearful nature and embrace bravery. He explores these conflicting desires in his excellent performance of “I Could Be That Guy.“ Mother Superior (wonderfully portrayed by Jama Bowen) is compelling in her moving solo “Here Within These Walls” (composed in a Broadway as opposed to disco style). She also brings out the humor in the lyrics in her other song, the witty “I Haven’t Got a Prayer.”
For the lover of traditional musicals, there are several amusing references to “The Sound of Music.” One instance is when Deloris assumes that she understands the life of nuns from having watched the movie. “It’s Good to Be a Nun” also reminds us of “The Sound of Music’s” “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” in terms of musical style.
Visitors to Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre will witness wonderful choreography in “Take me to Heaven,” choreographed brilliantly by director Amy Marie McCleary. Indeed, this masterful choreography, combined with an enthusiastic and talented cast, result in ensemble performances by the whole company which are nothing short of outstanding. “Raise Your Voice” is especially fine in this regard, an uplifting number with wonderful, glittering costumes designed with flair by John P. White. Set and lighting design are similarly excellent, with multicolored disco lights imagined brilliantly by lighting designer Chris McCleary and stained-glass windows and Gothic cathedral sets created evocatively by scenic designer Evan Adamson.
“Sister Act” demonstrates that there can be “common ground” (to quote the lyrics) in which seemingly different world views—sacred and secular—are reconciled for the enrichment of both. The show embodies this theme with music, showing how the divergent musical styles of disco, Broadway, and even Latin church liturgy (all conducted superbly by music director JP Meyer) can exist side by side and even enhance one another. This makes the show particularly relevant in the divisive times in which we currently find ourselves.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Due to an on-stage murder early in the play, caution should be exercised in bringing the very young to the show.
“Sister Act” runs through April 1, 2023 at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, 510 Centerville Road, Lancaster, PA 17601. For more information and tickets, call the Box Office at 717.898.1900 or go online. Masking at Dutch Apple is optional.