Ask Patrece Bloomfield, who is making her Wick Theatre debut in Sister Act as Delores Van Cartier – a/k/a the Whoopi Goldberg character in the 1992 movie – how she got the role and she will answer in two words, “Divine intervention.”
How appropriate for a musical that takes place largely in a convent.
Bloomfield was appearing in a theme park show at Universal Studios in Orlando, rotating in a role with a handful of other women. She happened to be performing when Michael Ursua, the Wick’s musical director and designated director of Sister Act, was walking by.
“He’d been through that part of the park several times and had never seen my show,” says Bloomfield. But he caught her act, asked around about her and then hired her for the Wick’s holiday show. “So apparently it was meant to be,” she says with a satisfied smile.
Those who are familiar with the movie know it concerns a Philadelphia nightclub singer who witnesses a murder and is then hidden for her safety in a convent. There her irreverent, empowering attitude rubs off on the nuns, while their spiritual demeanor has an effect on her. And the rousing choir that Delores assembles sends church attendance through the roof.
Neither the show nor the movie of Sister Act will ever be accused of being profound, but according to Don Seward, who plays tough guy Curtis Jackson, the musical’s songs provide the stage show will a little more depth. “I feel like with the solos these characters have, you get to hear their inner thoughts that you don’t see in the movie,” he says. “With these songs, you understand the characters a lot more.
“If you’ve seen the movie of ‘Sister Act’ then you know it’s kind of witty and lighthearted. It’s serious, but not too serious,” he feels. “If you come in with an open attitude and an open mind, you’re going to have fun regardless. You’re going to enjoy seeing this story and these characters develop.”
“It’s silly fun, but with a heart,” agrees Margot Moreland (Sister Mary Patrick) of the show. “It’s got a message, it’s got a togetherness theme.” She recalls seeing the film version, saying, “For me, it was purely silly fun. I didn’t go to the movie going, ‘This is going to change my life.’ I went going, ‘Let me go see Whoopi Goldberg as a nightclub singer becoming a nun. Ha ha, what a funny thing.’”
Chances are most of the Wick audience is familiar with the movie of Sister Act already. “I would hope so. I think it helps,” says Ursua. “I think the score to the movie is very near and dear to people’s hearts.” But composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater have updated the songs from the 1950s to the ’70s. “You’ve got the nice ’70s sound that keeps you going and the ballads are so moving and perfect. I think it’s wonderful.”
“This music, people are going to say, ‘It’s not the same,’ but it’s phenomenal,” adds Danette Cuming, the show’s Mother Superior. You have that amazing Broadway rhythm mixed with disco, mixed with gospel. With these amazing women, the sound soars and it blends. It’s like a gospel church service in a traditional Broadway show. I’d be surprised if people are not standing on their feet in the aisles.”
Unfortunately, the Wick has reverted to recorded music for Sister Act, a budgetary decision, according to Ursua. “You will never get me to say it’s better with tracks, but most of the audience is not going to know that it’s tracks. They’re that good,” notes Moreland.
The cast agrees that the recorded music should not get in the way of the audience’s enjoyment of Sister Act. “I think they’re going to have to work really hard not to have a good time,” says Jessica Brooke Sanford, who plays meek Sister Mary Robert.
“It’s a feel-good show. It’s a good time show,” adds Seward. “If you’re coming out to have fun, to enjoy life and celebrate living, come to this show.”
And if current political events have you a bit depressed, Sister Act should help you shake off the blues. Says Bloomfield, “It’s perfect escapism for everyone and any time, but particularly now.”
SISTER ACT, Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton. Opens Friday, runs through Dec. 23, $75-$80. (561) 995-2333.