ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar
at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
in Arlington Heights
By Guest Critic Catherine Hellmann
“This is a beautiful theater! Everything here looks new,” marveled my sister and burgeoning theater critic. We made the trek to Arlington Heights for a performance of Sister Act. Having been raised in a big Catholic family and attending parochial schools, we knew the topic would be something we could relate to. (Well, ok, beides being a nightclub singer hiding in a convent from her murderous boyfriend…) Natalie “Nat” Renee Savoy has a blast as Deloris Van Cartier, the singer-in-disguise-as-a-nun. She seems more comfortable in the role of Sister Mary Clarence (“patron saint of prisoners!”) than as Deloris, even if she does want to accessorize her black and white habit. :-)
Monsignor O’Hara (Christopher Johnson, having fun in the role) convinces Mother Superior (a great Lauren Miller) that Deloris will be joining the order. Mother isn’t thrilled and questions the decision. Father reminds her that she took a Vow of Charity.
“I take it back!” she yells.
The women’s choir at the convent is terrible; it’s laughable and impressive how bad their singing is. To describe the atrocious choir, Mother Superior says, “There are no words.” Sister Mary Clarence is given the challenge by Mother Superior of improving the choir; Deloris is to use her talents as a performer to elevate their singing. Under her guidance, the sisters bond, the Church’s finances turn around, the two “bachelors who liked the ‘gothic look’ of the church” and want to buy it end up declining, and an offer is extended to sing for the Pope. Sister Mary Clarence is making her mark.
The breakout role was Sister Mary Robert played by understudy Athena Kopulos. She was so sweet and charming as the very shy novice who finds her voice and her courage. I love when understudies get a shot and shine.
We assumed we’d recognize the songs from the Whoopie Goldberg movie. But all the songs were unfamiliar, penned by Alan Menken (“Little Mermaid,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Newsies”) and Glenn Slater. Of course, the songs help with the characterizations and move the plot along.
The choreography by Jen Cupani was clever and fun. The costumes were perfect by Sara Morrison; I especially liked the sparkled nun costumes at the end of the show.
Sadly, I also want to address performance etiquette. An audience member next to me asked at intermission if children are allowed into the theaters in Chicago. I said most venues prohibit children under five. It’s very rare to hear a baby in the theater. But there was a toddler who kept making noise during the performance; I kept waiting for parents to remove her, but they never did. Plus, cell phones went off at least three times during the show. Ugh. It is so frustrating and distracting. I admire when the actors are able to continue on without being thrown off.
The cast looked like they were having such a great time, which adds to the atmosphere.
After the show, we had a delectable dinner at Carlos & Carlos Restaurant. Lobster ravioli, fresh bread with butter and olive oil, shrimp scampi, generous pours of wine. We enjoyed our lovely day in the ‘burbs.
Catherine Hellmann loves her family, theater, and a good Chardonnay.