"Sister Act" - Alan Menken - Colonial Chorus Players (Reading, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: Nadia Robertson as “Deloris Van Cartier” surrounded by the CAST of the musical "SISTER ACT" by Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner, Alan Menken and Glen Slater now playing at Colonial Chorus Players in Reading, MA. through May 12, 2024. Photo Credit Tracey Westgate Photography)

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

“You're so strong, you're so sweet, you're what makes me complete.”  

                           - ("Deloris") /  Alan Menken and Glen Slater    


Colonial Chorus Players


The Alan Menken Musical


Music by Alan Menken

Lyrics by Glenn Slater

Book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner

Directed by Jason Hair-Wynn

Musical Direction by Kellie Tropeano

Choreographed by Jill Tokac

Produced by Jennifer Estabrooks and Fred Gallagher

Stage Management by Ally Lewis 

Assistant Stage Manager Michaela Zullo

Cast Includes: Nadia Robertson  as “Deloris Van Cartier,” Sue Brother as “Mother Superior,” Noah Turner as “Eddie Souther,” Jilliana Sliby as “Sister Mary Robert,” Laura Pawlyk as “Sister Mary Patrick,” Susan Austin as “Sister Mary Lazarus,” Erik Rodenhiser as “Curtis Jackson,” Martin Brother as “Monsignor O’Hara/Eddie,” Juliette McClendon as “Michelle,” Elly Kaye as “Tina,” Stephen Colwell as “TJ,” Brandon Dailey as “Joey,” Robb Laureles as “Pablo,” Kathleen Wackowski as “Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours,” Sharyn Taitz as “Sister Mary Theresa.” 

Featured Nuns:  Meg Brown, Luisiana Cruz, Tricia Freitas, Mary Rees Gould, Elly Kaye, Sabrina Ornae, Anna Poplawski, Charly Weiss 

Ensemble:  Nick Benedetti, Josh Foisy, Katherine Maddox, Sharon Martin, Andrea Messina, Katie Mulno, Colby Taormina, Chelsea Thorpe, Sean Westgate.


May 10, 2024 through May 12, 2024 

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times) 

For more information call # 781-944-9780, email info@1961.org or visit the Colonial Chorus website at: ccp1961.org

Shepardson Hall at Parker Middle School, GPS Address: 50 Temple Street, Reading, MA


Please email the Colonial Chorus Box Office at tickets@ccp1961.org. 

May contain content not suitable for all audiences. 

Because food and beverages are not permitted in Shepardson Hall, water only will be available in the Lobby. 


Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

(Note: The following review is of a final dress rehearsal held on 05-09-2024)

Colonial Chorus Players (CCPpresents a limited engagement run of almost heavenly singing nuns in the fun musical adaptation of "SISTER ACT."

This musical adaptation of the Whoopi Goldberg 1992 film with the same name transitions the setting from the movie's 1990s San Francisco to disco era 1970s Philadelphia

There have been a multitude of musicals based on popular movies which have achieved anywhere from zero to relative success. 

"SISTER ACT" is an admirable reworking which clearly falls somewhere in between, but the CCP production is still well worth seeing, especially given the enthusiasm and effort evidenced by its cast and crew. 

When the show premiered on Broadway in 2011, it was met with mixed reviews yet still managed to garner a Best New Musical Tony nomination in the process of its run of 28 previews and 561 performances

This latest staging by CCP is well guided by director Jason Hair-Wynn providing fine choreography along with the show's official choreographer Jill Tokac.

(Photo: Nadia Robertson as “Deloris Van Cartier” surrounded by the CAST of the musical  "SISTER ACT" by Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner, Alan Menken and Glen Slater now playing at Colonial Chorus Players in Reading, MA. through May 12, 2024. Photo Credit Tracey Westgate Photography)

A disappointment for fans of the 1992 movie comes from the lack of songs used from the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg vehicle. 

However, what actually works best in this musical adaptation is the impressive original "SISTER ACT" score by Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater

That is because the songwriting partners played it smart, along with book writers Bill Steinkellner and Cheri Steinkellner, by NOT trying to "shoehorn in" familiar songs from the movie. 

This way, the musical can stand on its own, which it does quite nicely. 

That said, there is an inherent weakness in the "SISTER ACT" script which is quite apparent but has nothing to do with the fine performances given by the CCP cast. 

As structured, the first 15 minutes of Act One contains a dreadful amount of exposition, made worse by trite musical numbers and cliché, 1970s class stereotypes. 

Also, the cold-blooded gangster villains from which our heroine is hiding from are not only buffoonish, they are absolutely cartoonish.

Again, the above is NOT the fault of the cast or creative team – this minor drawback lies squarely on the shoulders of the approach taken by book co-authors Steinkellner and Steinkellner

Fortunately, once these 15 minutes are up, the remainder of the show is where, thankfully, the real payoff begins and it pays off big in most part thanks to the collective performances by the CCP ensemble.

(Photo: Sue Brother as “Mother Superior” in a scene from the musical "SISTER ACT" by Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner, Alan Menken and Glen Slater now playing at Colonial Chorus Players in Reading, MA. through May 12, 2024. Photo Credit Tracey Westgate Photography)

Deloris Van Cartier (Nadia Robertson), an average lounge singer who fancies herself the next Donna Summer (remember, it is the 1970s) witnesses her boyfriend, crime boss Curtis Jackson (Erik Rodenhiser), murder one of his thugs who he believes has turned informant.  

Curtis believes Deloris will “rat” him out and orders his men (or rather what is left of them) to kill her. 

Robertson is completely in the moment as Deloris and, while the beginning of the story does not showcase Deloris character a her best, by the end we are totally involved with her and do nothing but root for her.

While Deloris shows us her many rough edges, she also conveys to us her "inner child" as she recalls her days as a former Catholic school student. 

Rodenhiser is completely committed to playing the vile Jackson for laughs, which he well displays in his number, "When I Find My Baby" backed up by his henchmen as his "Pips."

Jackson sends out his pip trio of inept henchmen; his nephew, TJ (Stephen Colwell), "associates" Joey (Brandon Dailey) and Pablo (Robb Laureles), to find Deloris and bump her off. 

It cannot be emphasized enough that the above trio (especially the wildly funny Colwell as TJ), are the absurdly funniest part of this show and will have you laughing in nearly every scene in which they appear.

(Photo: Erik Rodenhiser as "Curtis" with henchmen TJ (Stephen Colwell), Joey (Brandon Dailey) and Pablo (Robb Laureles) in a pip of moment from the musical "SISTER ACT" now playing at Colonial Chorus Players in Reading, MA. through May 12, 2024. Photo Credit Tracey Westgate Photography)

Deloris runs to Lt. Eddie Souther (Noah Turner), aka "Sweaty Eddie," a cop who was once a classmate of hers and asks for his help. 

Noah Turner, as Eddie, presents the character not as a cartoon but as a thoughtful, caring person.

Turner not only is funny but, as a melancholy Eddie, is given the opportunity to shine vocally in the musical highlight, "I Could Be That Guy" backed up by the ensemble and featuring some highly creative costume changes.

Eddie hides Deloris in the last place he believes anyone would look for her – a convent. 

There, Deloris meets the convent’s stringent Mother Superior (Sue Brother) who takes an immediate dislike to Deloris but takes her into the struggling convent's sanctuary at the behest of the Monsignor (Martin Brother). 

Sue Brother as Mother Superior is gruff, demanding and the perfect foil for the equally unruly, rabble-rousing Deloris.

Deloris, disguised as a nun, immediately bonds with the sisters of the convent, including the eclectic trio of Sister Mary Patrick (Laura Pawlyk), Sister Mary Robert (Jilliana Sliby) and Sister Mary Lazarus (Susan Austin) who urge Deloris to take over the choir. 

When she does, through her efforts, Deloris unexpectedly helps breathe new life into the stagnating church. 

All of the supporting characters in the nuns choir are exceptional - the only issue comes with the fact that their characters could not be developed by the writers to further their potential without turning this into a five-hour musical.

Martin Brother is tremendously funny as the Monsignor, moving from perfectly executed "deadpan humor" to more outrageous flamboyancy as the priest becomes more of an ally to Deloris.

(Photo: The CAST of the musical "SISTER ACT" by Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner, Alan Menken and Glen Slater now playing at Colonial Chorus Players in Reading, MA. through May 12, 2024. Photo Credit Tracey Westgate Photography)

Once in the primary setting of the convent (a beautifully detailed constructed main set), it is here that "SISTER ACT" really takes off and the dedicated CCP cast begins to gel on stage. 

Musical highlights, under the music direction of Kellie Tropeano, include the uplifting song, “The Life I Never Led,” magnificently belted out by Jilliana Sliby as Sister Mary Robert, which received an extended, thunderous ovation at the May 9th dress rehearsal.

Additional high points include the ensemble numbers "It's Good to Be a Nun" and “Raise Your Voice” sung by Robertson and the Nuns. 

Much of the CCP staging is greatly enhanced by the clever choreography by Tokac and director Hair-Wynn making fine usage of the varied levels of dance strengths by the ensemble. 

"Haven't Got a Prayer," sung by Sue Brother as Mother Superior, was exceptionally rendered, both introspective and subdued, while the more confrontational "Here Within These Walls" (sung with Robertson) helps to establish the contrasting, if not polarizing, nature between the two. 

Additional rousing ensemble numbers include "Take Me to Heaven" and "Spread the Love Around." 

The orchestra used for the production is also impeccable in the execution of each and every musical number.

"SISTER ACT" presents an enormous challenge for costuming.

Not only do costumes need to align with the show's 70s vibe and its various settings, they must also furnish the nuns with quick changes and some more glamourous choir garb. 

Fortunately, the costuming team at CCP definitely rose to the occasion.

(Photo: Jilliana Sliby as "Sister Mary Robert" singing "The Life I Never Led, in a moment from the musical "SISTER ACT" by Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner, Alan Menken and Glen Slater now playing at Colonial Chorus Players in Reading, MA. through May 12, 2024. Photo Credit Tracey Westgate Photography)

As noted, this review observed a "final dress rehearsal" which means things in technical areas were not as sharp or tight as they could have been giving allowances for final preparations being made.

Lights were still being tested and there were some minor sound issues. 

This production also comes with a multitude of set changes and transitions which could have flowed more smoothly and more quietly. 

However, the stage crew did manage to keep the pace moving and the set changes were implemented as fluidly as possible. 

A simple "cue-to-cue" should suffice to improve in each of these above mentioned areas but certainly did nothing to diminish the overall enjoyment had by the audience in attendance at the May 9th dress rehearsal performance.

The show's finale, "Raise Your Voice," is the musical's "Kinky Boots" moment (sharing the same kind of "vibe" part and parcel of that show's finale) where the entire ensemble is able to drop any habits, let down their hair, kick up their collective heels and bring us to church with nothing but positive energy. 

It is highly recommended that audiences do NOT leave until curtain call is over as they will miss out on a very special surprise conclusion guaranteed to raise the roof.

The inspired "SISTER ACT" musical courtesy of CCP only runs at the Shepardson Hall at Parker Middle School in Reading until May 12th so catch it before, like another famous fictitious nun, it “flies off.”

Up next at CCP will be Neil Simon's hilarious play, "BAREFOOT IN THE PARK" beginning October 4th, 2024.

For more information call # 781-944-9780, email info@1961.org or visit the CCP website at: ccp1961.orgFor tickets email the CCP Box Office at tickets@ccp1961.org.   

Approximately two hours, 30 minutes with one intermission.  

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)




"And then there were nuns. A divine, feel-good musical comedy."

After witnessing a murder, free spirited, disco diva Deloris Van Cartier finds herself in protective custody at a convent. 

At odds with a rigid Mother Superior, and a strict lifestyle, Deloris finds divine intervention bringing the choir from dour to dazzling with her signature style. 

While Deloris is busy raising the roof, her cover is blown and her new-found sisterhood rallies around her with a lot of love (and maybe a few sequins) in a tribute to the power of friendship.



COLONIAL CHORUS PLAYERS (established 1961) provides quality theatrical entertainment that showcases the diverse talents of our family of members and volunteers, both on and off stage, and educates people of all ages in the theater arts through mentoring, workshops and summer programs. 


To provide a vital performing arts outlet that inspires creative community involvement, educating and supporting lovers of musical theater and the arts, while producing quality entertainment. This includes our dream of renovating and expanding the Old Hose House into a state-of-the-art blackbox theater and rehearsal space.


P.O. Box 443

Reading, MA 01867

# 781-944-9780