There has been a recent trend on Broadway to take popular movies and turn them into musicals. The results run the gambit from kind of terrible to really, really terrible.
Laziness soaks these productions to the core since the pressure is off on having to come up with original characters or plot. Then you just pack in a bunch of bland, unremarkable new songs and you’ve got yourself a musical.
Just the last few years have produced a list of movies-turned-musicals that is as long as it is forgettable. Remember “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: The Musical” or “Edward Scissorhands: The Musical” or “The Color Purple: The Musical” or “The Wedding Singer: The Musical” or “Legally Blonde: The Musical” or “Shrek: The Musical” or “9 to 5: The Musical” or “Billy Elliot: The Musical” or “The Addams Family: The Musical” or “Bring It On: The Musical” or “Schindler’s List: The Musical?” OK. I threw that last one in just to see if you were still paying attention.
The point is that this is a creative drywell that we keep going to again and again because presumably somebody somewhere is making a whole lot of money off of this formula — even though the musicals themselves have a shelf life that makes the dairy section of a supermarket feel good about itself.
Trolling IMDB.com for musical ideas has now brought us “Sister Act,” which is out on tour and now playing at the Fox Theatre through Dec. 1.
If you can think back to 1992, “Sister Act” starred Whoopi Goldberg as a lounge singer who sees a murder and is placed in witness protection as a nun in a convent. Fish-out-of-water hilarity ensues.
“Sister Act: The Musical” isn’t as offensive as many of its movie-turned-musical brethren and actually has plenty of cute and enjoyable moments. But I couldn’t whistle you a single tune out of any of the humdrum songs and I can pretty much guarantee that this will be the one and only appearance of “Sister Act” at the Fox.
Identical to the movie in pretty much every way (with the exception of moving the time period to the late ’70s, because I guess Alan Menken and Glenn Slater wanted to write some disco songs) “Sister Act” stars Ta’Rea Campbell in Whoopi’s role as Deloris Van Cartier.
After witnessing her criminal boyfriend, Curtis (Melvin Abston), kill one of his associates, Deloris runs to the cops and is sent to hide out at a convent by Officer Eddie Souther (Chester Gregory, who scores a lot of laughs during the quick-change number “I Could Be That Guy”).
At first, Deloris’ brash style clashes with her dour surroundings and the stern Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik). But after she is put in charge of the choir, Deloris spices up the music and puts a little showbiz into the worship service, which puts butts in the pews but also draws a lot of unwanted attention.
As I said, this show is cute enough and there are some nice supporting turns by Ashley Moniz as the meek Sister Mary Robert, Diane J. Findlay as the crotchety Sister Mary Lazarus and Florrie Bagel as the bubbly, scene-stealing Sister Mary Patrick.
But again, great musicals are built around great songs not audience familiarity with existing plot and characters. That is why the best these movies-turned-musicals can ever hope to achieve is the glorious mediocrity of “Sister Act.”
Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to see the end of this trend anytime soon. Why, just next month, “Elf: The Musical” comes to the Fox. I can’t wait.
“Sister Act” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through Dec. 1. For tickets, call (314)-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.