Keeper of the Plans

Review: MTW's 'Sister Act' is the funniest show you'll see this week, bar nun

In the sparkly finale of "Sister Act," a resplendent Deloris Van Cartier (Shonica Gooden) shows off her finery.
In the sparkly finale of "Sister Act," a resplendent Deloris Van Cartier (Shonica Gooden) shows off her finery. Courtesy of Lydia Shirley

In theater, it's awfully important to nail the opener.

An opening number ought to be so dazzling, so electrifying that it sticks in the audience's mind — regardless of how the rest of the show fares.

Well, Music Theatre Wichita's first show of 2018, "Sister Act," has as strong an opener as I've seen.

Frankly, it's one of the funniest shows MTW has produced in recent memory.

The show, which premiered on Broadway in 2011, is an adaptation of the 1992 movie comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg. The musical is set in 1970s Philadelphia.

In it, an aspiring disco diva (played here by Shonica Gooden) must go into hiding in a convent to avoid a gang of murderous thugs. Though a misfit initially, she is pegged to lead a chorus of milquetoast nuns, where she finds unlikely friendship.

Gooden, who is making her Wichita debut after Broadway appearances in "Hamilton" and "Cinderella," is simply lovely. She has impeccable comedic timing and ably carries this production.

Yes, this show is a strong opener to MTW's 2018 season, but the opening of "Sister Act" itself on Wednesday stumbled a bit.

The first 15 minutes or so just seemed a little disjointed — and it wasn't until MTW longtimer Katie Banks-Todd (here playing Mother Superior) entered that the show seemed to stabilize.

Opening-night kinks are seemingly unavoidable, but one flub early on was particularly jarring.

When the gangster boss (played by Kolby Kindle) shoots one of his cronies — a key plot point — the gunshot sound cue was dropped, leading to an awkward silence as the crony keeled over from an imaginary blast.

Every other sound cue throughout the musical came as expected, though, so I doubt it will happen again.

The original Broadway production ran for about a year and a half, after being nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

It features all-original songs by Alan Menken and his longtime lyricist Glenn Slater. Menken wrote the music for plenty of Disney classics, including "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "Tangled," and "Newsies."

It's not a groundbreaking piece of musical theater, nor will it go down as the most heart-tugging of Music Theatre Wichita's season. But a show doesn't necessarily have to be deep to be entertaining, and MTW's talented ensemble is quite charming.

There's just something funny about nuns — a sentiment Wednesday's audience certainly agreed with. The standing ovation at curtain call was well-deserved.

I laughed plenty and truly enjoyed "Sister Act."

I'm sure there may be some out there wondering if they too will enjoy the musical.

To that I say "nunsense!"

Wait, wrong show.

‘SISTER ACT: THE MUSICAL’

When: 7:30 p.m. Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sat.-Sun., and 7 p.m. Sun.

Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas

Tickets: $34-$69 for evening performances, $32-$66 for matinees, from the Century II box office, by phone at 316-265-3107 or online at www.mtwichita.org

More Information: Show is rated PG. Running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes. Children must be at least 5 years old.

From first rehearsals to final build and opening night, MTWichita employs 300 seasonal employees to make Broadway-scale musical entertainment possible right in the heart of downtown Wichita. (Courtesy of Music Theatre Wichita / Steven C. Smith / D

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