Sister Act: Nuns, Sequins, and Tons of Fun

By Zoë Sonnenberg (Stanford University)

Never in my life did I expect to see a nun perform an excerpt of the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” in Italian.  And yet, at the Campagnia della Rancia’s tour of Sister Act at the Teatro Verdi, I saw just that.

Naively, I entered the theater expecting to see a show in English.  After all, operas in the United States are performed in Italian; why wouldn’t American musical theater in Italy follow the same conceit?  As the house lights dimmed and the opening announcements were given in Italian, I was un-phased.  The stage lights came up.  The costumes screamed of the 1970s.  Belia Martin as Deloris van Cartier began to croon the opening lines of “Fammi Volare,” and only then did I realize quite what I was in for.

Sister Act read surprisingly well in Italian, carried by the cast’s excellent singing.  Martin’s effortless mix commanded the stage during her solo numbers, be they ballads or 70s funk tunes.

Francesca Taverni, a phenomenal Mother Superior, was potentially show-stealing in her two ballads, “Qui vicino a Dio” and “Che santi pregherò?”.  Her classical style, clear and emotional, was evident, proof of her decades-long career.  The duet shared by Martin and Taverni was a highlight of the production.

Where the singing succeeded, the acting fell slightly to the wayside.  In the first act, Martin’s commanding voice may have come in where visible emotion otherwise lacked.  While her comedic moments were funny and well-timed, her dramatic moments alone were slightly underdone.  For many in the cast, their singing talent superseded their acting skills.

Martin experienced technical difficulties with her wireless microphone during the second act.  Despite this, she never once broke character or paused the show; rather, she gracefully crossed stage to reach a hand mic and fluidly continue the scene.

Felice Cascian was a strikingly good actor.  Casciano, who originated the role of Curtis Shank in Italy, was delightfully sleazy.  His gang of wide-lapelled cronies provided comic relief, while Casciano himself was a force to be reckoned with.

Other notable performances included Marco Trespioli’s charming inversion of the classic Alan Menken “I want” song (and his double quick-change), and Veronica Appeddu’s earnest Sister Maria Roberta.  The nun ensemble was always fun, and the audience clearly loved the Catholic humor – when Martin humorously shut down the nuns’ grace over their meal, audience members cheered.  The costume design was also exciting, with sequins galore.

By curtain, I had a smile plastered on my face.  Sister Act is an upbeat, energetic, feel-good musical about sisterhood prevailing over hate, a message we could all benefit from.  This fun touring production gave a performance sure to make for a wonderful evening.

Leave a Reply