Photo by Charr Crail.
Zonya Love as Deloris Van Cartier, left, sings for her supper with the nuns and Lynne Wintersteller as Mother Superior.
Arts Community Voice Events Review

Two Farewells: Music Circus Season, Fair Oaks’ Bob Irvin

The summer Music Circus season comes to an end this weekend with the final performances of “Sister Act.” In a season of fine shows, Music Circus saved the best for last.

Based on the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, “Sister Act: The Musical” puts the fun in fundamental theater and the cool cat in Catholicism — and that can’t be blasphemous, because there is too much genuine virtue in its story. Disco diva Deloris Van Cartier (played by the amazing Zonya Love), is put in protective custody after witnessing a murder committed by her abusive boyfriend, Curtis Jackson (Rufus Bonds Jr.). Placed in protective company by police officer Eddie Souther (Alan Wiggins) and given shelter in a convent where Mother Superior (Lynne Wintersteller) is even less happy than Deloris at the arrangement. When Deloris (now called Sister Mary Clarence) reluctantly puts her musical talents to use with the church choir, her dedication to the sisters results in a kind of conversion that barely challenges credulity.  The Church begins to prosper, the bad guys get caught and Deloris leads the choir at a papal mass. Who could ask for a happier ending?

The action is moved from the movie’s contemporary San Francisco to 1978 Philadelphia. While that doesn’t mean much for the book’s writers, Cheri and Bill Steinkellner (maybe a few cheesesteak references), it provides plenty of gospel, soul and disco inspiration for Alan Menken (music) and Glenn Slater (lyrics). Perhaps the best example of their collaboration is the funky nightclub number “Take Me to Heaven,” which is reprised as a perfectly serviceable song for a chorus of nuns.

Among musical highlights are: “Sunday Morning Fever”; Mother Superior’s “I Haven’t Got a Prayer,” sung by Wintersteller; the inspiring and energizing “Raise Your Voice,” performed by sisters Mary Clarence, Mary Patrick (Nikki Switzer), Mary Robert (Jeanna De Waal), Mary Lazarus (Audrie Neenan) and other nuns; “I Could Be That Guy,” a showcase number for Wiggins as Officer Souther; “When I Find My Baby,” a rundown of the awful ways he’s going to kill Deloris, sung by Bonds as Curtis; and a hilarious, expertly choreographed and funked to maximum effect, “Lady in the Long Black Dress” by Curtis’ henchmen Joey, Pablo & TJ (Todd A. Homan, Chris Chatman and Justin Keyes, respectively).

Directed with precise timing throughout by Glenn Casale, “Sister Act” features fine choreography by Randy Slovacek and superb musical accompaniment led by music supervisor Dennis Castellano.

“Sister Act” continues at Music Circus, 1419 H St, through Sunday. Evening performances through Saturday begin at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are scheduled at 2 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (final show). Tickets are $45 to $89. For tickets or for more information, call (916) 557-1999 or go to CaliforniaMusicalTheatre.com

Au revoir, Robert

Bob Irvin was artistic director of the Fair Oaks Theatre Festival for nearly 30 years until his death last September. One of the first plays he directed there was Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and he died leaving unfinished his dream project, a jazz-age musical version of Shakespeare’s comedy. He called it “Shrew!”

Through Sept. 17, the Fair Oaks Theatre Festival is presenting “Shrew,” with music selected by Irvin, and the script completed by Jennifer Longo, based on Irvin’s notes. “Shrew!” transports Shakespeare’s Italianate story of disagreeable sisters and a mother eager to marry them off to 1930s France. Irvin ingeniously set the action in and around the Parisian fashion house of Baptista Minola. Familiar Fair Oaks singers and actors perform the play that is both entertainment and homage to a theatrical original.

There are nice, juicy roles for three singers sometimes referred to Irvin’s divas — Deane Calvin, who plays fashionista Baptista Minola, and Brianne Hidden-Wise and Analise Langford-Clark, who play daughters sweet Bianca and untamed Kate, respectively. Among familiar male faces from past Fair Oaks productions are Joe Hart, Dan Slauson, Jonathan Blum and Corey D. Winfield.

A four piece live band  — Joe Gilman on piano, Rick Lotter on drums, Matt Robinson on bass and Kurt Shiflet on guitar — provides fine musical accompaniment on such vintage songs as “I’ll Take Romance,” “The Song Is You,” “What Is This Thing Called Love,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” and “Aba Daba Honeymoon” (one of Irvin’s guilty pleasures). Direction is by Beth Duggan (Irvin’s successor as festival artistic director; choreography is by Karen Bombardier, musical direction is by Kirt Shearer, and vocal direction is by Blum and Lucy D’Mot.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre, 7991 California Ave., Old Fair Oaks. Tickets are $18 general admission, $12 on special “Retro-Sunday” shows. For tickets or for more information, call (916) 966-3683 or go to FairOaksTheatreFestival.com/

Weekend Dance Parties

The Capital Dance Project, a rare, completely dancer-directed company, will strut its stuff this weekend. The third annual Behind the Barre: Made in Sacramento will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Nine collaborations among dancers, artists and musicians will showcase examples of the creativity and cooperation found in the Sacramento arts community.

But before those two shows — at 6 p.m. Friday — CDP will present the city’s first sensory-friendly dance performance, a show with sound and light adaptations designed to be accessible to and enjoyed by those on the autism spectrum or with other sensory disabilities. Tickets for this special show are $5 per person.

All performances will take place in the Crest Theatre, 1013 K St. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday shows are $25 each. Tickets are available online (go to CapitalDanceProject.org/ticket), in person at select Midtown businesses (names and addresses on the website) or at the theater box office before each show.

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About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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