Back in the Habit: Sister Act Live at the Sooner Theatre

As the Hellish holiday of Halloween quickly approaches, this past weekend I needed a Heavenly break from the goblins and ghouls by taking in a Friday night showing of the Broadway musical Sister Act down at the majestic Sooner Theatre, 101 E. Main St. in Norman.

While it may seem a little, ironically enough, sacrilegious this time of year to get excited about a roomful of singing nuns, I have had a long and varied history with the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film; mostly, it’s one of the few movies I have ever seen in a movie theatre with my mother—the other one was Patch Adams, in case you cared—from a time where the dogma of Catholicism was far stronger (and fearfully severe) inside me.

But even after I left the church some years ago, I’ve still routinely enjoyed the charming film.

With the weather so wet and cold that evening, the annual Norman Fall Festival was canceled, freeing up the busy streets; the Sooner was still packed with a broad swath of people looking to see this local take on singer Deloris Van Cartier and her (as I was told) Biblically inaccurate variations on classic Motown tunes.

After purchasing a few bottles of water in the snack bar—complete with a disembodied torso standing in the corner—we filed into the mostly castle-like theatre.

Headlined by actress (and Langston alumni) De’Vin Lewis as faux nun Van Cartier, from the very first song, she gives this musical the balcony-rattling force that the original songs by Glenn Slater and Alan Menken definitely need and deserve; while some people might be a bit unnerved that the musical replaces the songs from the film with a newish original soundtrack, the music here is definitely heaven-sent.

While a few problems might plague the production—mostly stumped recitations and a late audio cue or two—it’s all ultimately forgiven as the cast boldly pays reverence to the original film along with a few playful jabs at the Church thrown in for knowing laughs even among the holiest sitting in the theatrical pews; while Sister Act might not be great theatre, it is definitely fun theatre.

But, leaving a couple of hours later, what most impressed me, however, was the Sooner Theatre itself; I had never been inside the historic Norman vestige. A former vaudeville stage and one-screen movie house, layered with gentle acoustics, comfortable seating, and odd bathroom arrangements, the Sooner is one theatre where I’d pay to see a musical based on an existing movie property just about any day of the week. Hallelujah!

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 The Sooner Theatre’s next production, Elf, runs December 6-8 and 15-18. Photos courtesy of KY. Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.