Owosso’s ‘Sister Act’ goes over the top and below the belt

On opening night, Owosso Community Players’ production of “Sister Act” had the audience fired up like a church full of Holy Rollers.

These sisters could act, sing and dance.

Everyone in the 27-member cast was multi-talented. After songs like “Raise Your Voice,” and “Take Me to Heaven,” it seemed the audience’s roars were loud enough to rise to heaven. Nuns in habits singing beautifully had the “congregation” in the Lebowsky Center habitually hollering hellacious screams of appreciation.

Savannah Fisher played Deloris Van Cartier, who is placed in witness protection at a convent and changes her name to Sister Mary Clarence. She sang her best numbers as Sister Mary. Fisher never made me miss Whoopi Goldberg, who played Deloris in the movie that was the basis for this stage adaptation.

Sister Mary Clarence led a chorus of nuns in the Queen of Angels convent who — under her inspirational direction — transformed from off-key warblers to angelic singers. With voices like Rachael Cupples (Sister Mary Patrick), Meghan Corbett (Sister Mary Robert) and Kathy Kowalski (Sister Mary Lazarus), the choir was worthy of raucous hallelujahs.

Although “Sister Act” had no standabove-the-others singer, each Mary had her own “Hail Mary” spotlight moment. As did other cast members, including Mandy Bashore as Mother Superior, who sang solos of a superior quality.

The Owosso rendition took a while to hit its stride, but once it did, performance levels kept hitting new heights. Each appearance by Michael McClung, as Monsignor O’Hara, was more likeable than the last. Elaborate costumes designed by Lisa Bradley, Alissa Britten, Cathy Johnson and Mistie Jordan also rose to more heavenly levels as the play progressed. Authentic and detailed habits with multifarious headgear were embellished and switched numerous times. The costumes — including hysterical nun pajamas — earned their own riotous reactions. As songs got flashier, so did all of the exquisite wardrobes, culminating in gloriously glittered robes and even sequined prison uniforms.

The men in “Sister Act” offered their own flashy moments. Although the play was full of comedy, it was the dudes who deftly dispensed the most definitively droll deliveries.

When Curtis (Artis White) sang “When I find My Baby,” the crowd howled. White took lyrics referring to acts of stabbing, shooting and killing and somehow made them hilarious.

Actors Michael Windnagle (Joey), Vinnie Lindquist (Pablo), and Holden Santi (TJ) offered over-the-top sexual gestures and below-the-belt humor while performing “Lady in the Long, Black Dress.” It was their strongest — and funniest — moment. When the diminutive Santi added a Bee Gees-style falsetto to his disco gyrations, the main floor and balcony reverberated with the audience’s deafening glee.

Prince Jerrell Spann, as Eddie, got a rowdy response when his police costume was ripped off to reveal a white suit, à la John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.” The rowdiness increased when that suit was torn off to reveal yet another cop outfit.

Complex and clever choreography, designed by Erica Duffield, often involved a stage full of dancers. The nuns in habits boogieing and thrusting hips in perfect unison was another crowd pleaser in the two hour and 35 minute (with intermis- sion) show. For many of the play’s 21 songs, a skillful, six-person rigging crew flawlessly lowered and raised detailed and majestic solid backdrops designed by Dirk Rennick and Dan Wenzlick. Stage lamps and regal lighting designed by Amy Jo Kinyon contributed greatly to the changes. The 11-piece orchestra, conducted by Jillian Boots, was brilliant from the start to the grand finale. Under the direction of Garrett Bradley, this all added up to a divine experience. I’d admit that in any confessional.

“Sister Act” 8 p.m. Friday June 23 and Saturday, June 24; 3 p.m. Sunday, June 25 $23/$21 students and seniors/$13 children Owosso Lebowsky Center 122 E. Main Street, (989) 723-4003, owossoplayers.com