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LAST CALL FOR ARTS CHAMPIONS: Friday is the deadline to nominate people and organizations for the City of San Jose’s Cornerstone of the Arts awards. As was the case last year, the city’s office of cultural affairs and its arts commission will be honoring awardees in three categories: Cornerstone of the Arts, given to individuals who have provided long-standing support for the arts — think of it as a Lifetime Achievement Award; Creative Impact, for individuals who have led a cultural or artistic project or event that’s made a significant difference for the community; and Business Support for the Arts, intended for companies and their leaders who have demonstrated strong support for the city’s cultural scene.

Previous awardees have included the late Irene Dalis, founder fitflop ballet flats of Opera San Jose; Carmen and Alcario Castellano; former Mayor Susan Hammer; and San Jose Taiko founders Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, This year’s recipients will be honored at an event in early October, Guidelines and more details are available at, ‘ELIJAH’ WITH A TWIST: San Jose State’s School of Music and Dance is staging a production of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” this weekend, but the performance will have a very modern twist for the audience, Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu will star as Elijah, sharing the stage with SJSU’s choral ensembles, orchestra and members of the University Dance Theater..

Praise the Lord. Although “Sister Act,” the musical that opened last Friday night at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City, starts out about as languidly as Donna Summer’s 1970s disco tunes like “Last Dance,” it revs up by the end of Act 1 — and keeps getting more feverish for the rest of the night. As a result, the hard-charging cast received a hearty standing O at the end of the show, and justifiably so. Based on the zany 1992 film comedy of the same name that starred Whoopi Goldberg, the musical play “Sister Act” first saw the light of day in 2006 in Pasadena, after renowned musical composer Alan Menken and his frequent lyrics collaborator Glen Slater teamed up on the lively score. It then had a circuitous route to Broadway (via the West End of London), and finally opened in New York in 2011 where it ran for more than a year.

Veteran director Bill Starr knows how to cast a musical because this one is peppered with terrific performances, even in supporting roles, He also knows when to get out of the way and let dynamo Dawn L, Troupe (at times wearing an Afro wig as large as a small planet) do her thing, Though she seems constrained at the top of the show, she hits her stride when she takes over the worse-than-awful choir at the Queen of Angels convent, How she, a second-rate singer and girlfriend of a gangster, ends up at a convent takes too long to explain because it’s only after those marvelous, mirthful nuns come on stage that this musical begins to pop, Truth be told, the show’s entire storyline is so predictable, everyone knows it’ll all come out right fitflop ballet flats in the end..

Besides the full-throated Troupe (who has a smile that can melt hard candy), there are several powerful voices here.  Who knew the pipsqueak postulant nun, all meek and bashful at the start, could belt out a tune like “The Life I Never Led” in Act 2? That’s the surprising Jessica Maxey, who, with her big eyes and shy glances, has been wowing Peninsula audiences for several years. (Shy glances in “Sister Act,” anyway; in “Cabaret,” she was a steamy powerhouse as Frenchie.).

Then there’s the delightfully pixyish Melissa Costa as Sister Mary Patrick, Her genuine pleasure and glee just picks up everyone’s fitflop ballet flats mood whenever she’s onstage.  Darlene Batchelder amuses as Sister Mary Lazarus — not a nun you’d want to encounter in an alley, Her piercing eyes and stern demeanor could easily freeze an army of thugs — and she’s certainly not happy when the unorthodox Sister Mary Clarence (Troupe) takes over the choir she’s been directing, Gary Stanford Jr, does a credible job as the head gangster, Curtis, though he’d be more believable if he’d tone down his staccato pronouncements a bit, His gang of three thugs is the silliest parody of mobsters ever, Sporting lots of facial hair, 1970s polyester shirts and pants and trying to act “hip,” Sheraj Ragoobeer as TJ, Sam Nachison as Joey and Nick Dale as Pablo are comic pleasures, With goons like this, there’d be no crime in the world..

Two other fine veteran actors deserve mention. As Eddie (Deloris calls him “sweaty Eddie”), Jim Ambler is a bit of an enigma. Just when it appears he isn’t going to be anything but a minor character in Deloris’ life, he shows some gumption and plants a wet one on a startled Deloris’ lips. Ambler also is credited as the show’s choreographer, and while some of the early dance numbers seem rather tame, when the nuns join in, the dances are packed full of bouncy energy and charm. It’s sheer delight to watch Beth Anne Wells Viloria (as Mother Superior) struggle with the moral issue of hiding a loose woman in her convent while telling the other nuns that she’s a nun — obviously a lie. Viloria’s mouth quivers, her eyebrows knit together and her hand shakes whenever she has to deal with the “fake” nun. Her singing voice also quivers, as in the number “I Haven’t Got a Prayer,” when she’s torn between right and wrong yet knows she must be true to her religious calling.

With this morning’s conviction by a San Jose jury of Sierra LaMar’s killer, the teenager is still remembered in the online world, In Facebook friends’ posts, news media Twitter feeds fitflop ballet flats and websites set up to rally a search party in the early days following her 2012 disappearance, LaMar’s presence is forever felt.Related ArticlesSierra LaMar: Antolin Garcia-Torres guilty of missing girl’s murderSierra LaMar: Timeline of events in her kidnapping, deathSierra LaMar: Top 10 reasons lawyer says accused man is not guilty..

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