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Arts and Entertainment

'Sister Act' brings nuns, mobsters and disco to Anchorage stage

  • Author: Jeri Kopet
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published May 6, 2015

Anyone who can remember the 1990s is likely familiar with the movie "Sister Act." The film featured actress Whoopi Goldberg in a seminal role as Deloris, a musically inclined diva who is forced to take shelter in a convent of nuns after witnessing a crime.

The musical of the same name, written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, is a boisterous stage adaptation of the comedy. Although the plot still features Deloris and a host of nuns and mobsters, the music in "Sister Act" is entirely original. Set in the '70s and scored by the legendary Alan Menken ("Little Shop of Horrors, "The Little Mermaid" and many others), "Sister Act" is filled with glamour, glitter and a healthy dose of disco-era influences.

The current run of "Sister Act" is winding down an extensive national tour with a final, weeklong showing in Anchorage. Despite the long hours spent on the road, demanding schedules and close quarters, Maggie Clennon Reberg, who plays the sanctimonious Mother Superior, says that she hasn't tired of the show.

"I'm not at all bored with it yet, which is astounding," says Clennon Reberg. "We celebrated our 100th performance months ago … I still find so many surprises and so many moments of joy every single night."

Clennon Reberg came to the role after decades of classical operatic training. Although "Sister Act" is certainly different from her usual work, she said it's a refreshing change of pace. "It's been an absolute blast," says Clennon Reberg. "(It's) different from what I've done in my career in the past. It's also very conversational."

Many of those conversations take place between the stern Mother Superior and Deloris, the vampy and dramatic singer on the lam, as they bump heads and challenge each other's beliefs throughout the musical.

Texas-born Kerissa Arrington plays the role of Deloris. For Arrington, landing a leading role in "Sister Act" was a surprise. Although Arrington had performed in local theater and professionally at Six Flags and Sea World, she wasn't expecting much out of the open call auditions for the national tour.

"I went for it, and I ended up getting a call back and then multiple call backs after that," says Arrington. "This is my first national tour … It has been a very demanding tour, but it has been a lot of fun."

The show is appropriate for all ages, and provides something entirely new for fans of the original film.

"It's definitely something you won't regret coming to see," says Arrington. "A lot of people come out to 'Sister Act' thinking of Whoopi Goldberg and nuns, and they don't really know what they're getting themselves into. It's a very energetic show."

With Menken's use of gospel and '70s influences, "Sister Act" has something for a range of musical tastes.

"It's got these fantastic, disco-infused dance tunes, it's got some really powerful ballads, it's got intrigue and glitter balls," says Clennon Reberg. "And nuns gone wild!"

Clearly, fun is central to the "Sister Act" experience. But the show is about more than comical religious orders, disco balls and power ballads. At its heart, it's about two very different women coming to a deeper understanding of each other's humanity.

"The message is powerful," Clennon Reberg says. "No matter who you are, no matter what lifestyle you come from, we are all music makers in our souls. Music transforms people and brings them together into a community like nothing else I can think of."

Sister Act

When: Tuesday, May 12- Sunday, May 17. Showtimes vary by date.

Where: Atwood Concert Hall

Tickets: $49.25-$90.75 at centertix.net or 263-ARTS

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