I have no words, it is just fabulously Sister Act!
Despite the rocking grooves of ‘Take Me to Heaven’, Sister Act’s Singapore premiere kicked off to a relatively lukewarm start, probably a combination of jet-lag among the cast and the sound system struggling to get into form, or possibly just too daunted by the heights of heaven. Nevertheless, the qualities of the script and cast quickly overcame the brief downbeat, and the show eventually got everyone on their feet during the curtain call.
Sister Act is as good as any feel-good musical can get. Having said that, from a scripting perspective, Sister Act is rare in the sense where each character, no matter how small it is, is given ample time and space on stage to express their personalities and emotions, which provides a very coherent viewing experience.
The ingenious idea of protecting a crime witness (in this case Deloris van Cartier, our main protagonist) within a convent, suggests a nonsensical oxymoron. Anyway, has the clash between established institutions and the individual (father vs son, mother vs daughter, you vs your boss, rules vs creativity……me against the world) ever made sense until Sister Act came along.
Sister Act can be a popcorn-munching comedy, but looking at how Mother Superior (the chief nun) came to terms with the non-conforming ways of Deloris, you can’t help but be reminded of the times when you spoke out, or when you simply tossed it all and pressed on to be yourself.
The eternal struggle in maintaining a balance between upholding the system to ensure society works, and allowing enough space for the individual to be itself. Sister Act is point blank in its emphatic support to individual triumphs in challenging the status quo, but maintains its well-regard towards the establishment as displayed through Deloris’ unfailing reverence to Mother Superior. I personally feel Sister Act has found the perfect balance between acknowledgement of individual ‘trail-blazing’ effort and due respect to the establishment, which is a refreshing message to an increasingly polarised world of ours.
The highlight for me has to be Sister Mary Robert, the shy, young postulant who is played by Sophie Kim, the first Asian ever to perform in Sister Act. Watching her accurate body language, convincing singing and precise speech in portraying Sister Mary Robert, who would have thought she did not speak a word of English just six years ago, when she first set foot on the Land of the Free in 2011! Timid as Sister Mary Robert can be, you will be touched by her courage as well as honesty to herself in letting go of her devils and temptations, not to indulge in them, but to face them squarely, rather than suppress them until it distorts her soul.
Speaking of the devil, the production team of Sister Act has masterfully manifested the struggle of the human mind through one scene towards the end, where our main protagonist was deciding between personal glory and companionship. In that scene, Deloris the diva danced seductively towards troupes of sequin-clad dancers in response to her call of fame. As we are invited deeper and deeper into her wildest fantasies, we suddenly see her sisters coming onto stage, walking towards her in song and reaching out to her with their hands. The presentation of the conflicting thoughts was perfectly concluded with the encirclement of Deloris, half by the glittering dancers and half by the sisters.
Sister Act is a concise reminder of the fragility and possibilities of human nature. We are so fraught with bizarre shortcomings that sometimes we just loathe ourselves so much, especially when we benchmark against our own ideals. In any case, we can take refuge in Mother Superior’s prudent realisation that being human and knowing God (your ideals) are inseparable. That’s also why although a burdensome struggle, recognising and overcoming shortcomings has always been the most beautiful act which anyone of us is capable of. Deloris found her Sister Act, et tu?
P / S: Nuns have always been so powerful in conveying enduring and thought-provoking messages, especially through movies and stage production. If you can’t get enough of the musical, do continue to revel in Whoopi Goldberg’s movie of the same name. Alternatively, for a more somber and contemplative evening, ‘The Nun’s Story’ by Audrey Hepburn will definitely keep your mind going.
You do not want to miss this, do you? HURRY now.
Photo courtesy of Sister Act