Sister Mary Clarence: I was thinking more like Vegas, you know? Get some butts in the seats.
Two films that star Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris Van Cartier, a Reno lounge singer who pretends to be a nun (for reasons specific to each movie) and introduces excitement into the formerly-solemn local church music.
The first Sister Act, released in 1992, Deloris witnesses her Mafioso boyfriend Vince LaRocca (Harvey Keitel) commit a murder. She enters Witness Protection and is forcibly inducted into an abbey as "Sister Mary Clarence". The only other person at the abbey who knows her true identity is the Mother Superior (Maggie Smith). Deloris has to follow the vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity, and getting up at 5 AM and working hard. Eventually, she becomes the leader of the abbey choir, and she decides to make some improvements by combining spirituals and R&B, and the lively new music brings newcomers into the church. However, her newfound visibility does no favors for why she entered the abbey in the first place...
Hilarity Ensues. With a tambourine.
One of the most popular comedies of The '90s, and up there with Ghost as one of Whoopi Goldberg's most famous roles, with a cast of beloved character actors and a magnificently long-suffering Maggie Smith as the Mother Superior. The film also drew praise from both Catholics and actual nuns, as the film portrays Catholicism in general and nuns in particular as warm, welcoming, and human (as opposed to some of the other popular portrayals). The biggest draw is probably the music itself, which reinterprets such classics as "My Guy" into a religious format. In 2006, the movie was made into a stage musical, with songs by Alan Menken.
A sequel followed in 1993: Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Deloris takes her story to Las Vegas and her show becomes a hit. One night, her old friends from the convent pay her a visit, and they tell her that the Catholic school where they've been teaching (which happens to be Deloris' own alma mater) is slowly going under. Deloris agrees to return as Sister Mary Clarence and teach the music class to a large group of very disinterested teenagers (led by a young Lauryn Hill). After a series of pranks being pulled on her, she strikes back in her own way and humbles the kids so that she can work with them. She decides to form the kids into a choir, singing the same sort of music from the previous film and entering a choir competition in hopes to convince the archdiocese that the school is worth funding.
A third film is currently in the works, with Goldberg returning, set to premiere on Disney+.
The first film provides examples of:
- Answer Cut: This is how the convent is revealed to be the last place where Vince would look for Deloris.
- Armor-Piercing Response: When Deloris finds out about the convent's strict 9:00 curfew, she complains to Reverend Mother; the older woman's stern (and very accurate) answer hits Deloris hard, and makes her begin to reach out to the other nuns.Deloris: You know, before I came here, I had a career, I had friends—I had clothing that fit. Before I came here, I was okay.Reverend Mother: Oh, really? From what I've heard, your singing career was almost non-existent, and your married lover wants you dead. If you're fooling anyone, it is only yourself. God has brought you here. Take the hint.
- Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving:Reverend Mother: I hold you responsible for all of this. For introducing a lounge act into my convent, for utterly disrupting our lives, and exposing us all to mortal danger.
- Bait-and-Switch: Deloris leads the choir in a classical (and much improved) rendition of "Hail Holy Queen," before abruptly starting an up-tempo version.
- Becoming the Mask: A variation. While Deloris certainly never takes vows or becomes an "official" nun, she does slowly lose her snarky, self-absorbed attitude as she stays in the convent. By the end of the film, she's become a genuinely kind, compassionate person—much like the other nuns. It's best summarized when, in the final scene, Reverend Mother declares that, for all intents and purposes, Deloris is Sister Mary Clarence (see Even Evil Has Standards below).
- Better Than Sex: After two of the singing nuns refer to singing as being better than more innocent things such as "springtime" and "ice cream," the "heathen" Fish out of Water Deloris proclaims that singing is "better than sex," adding that it's what she has heard after a comedic Beat.
- Big Bad: Vince, who will do anything to stay out of prison, killing anyone who could rat him out.
- Big Fun: Sister Mary Patrick loves everything, unapologetically. When Deloris asks her if she's always so cheerful:Sister Mary Patrick: Am I? All right, I am, I can't help it. I've always been upbeat, optimistic, perky. My mother always said, 'that girl is pure sunshine. She'll grow up to either be a nun or a stewardess'. Coffee?
- Big "WHAT?!": Deloris employs at least one, when Lt. Eddie Souther explains he can't spring her from the convent, and also that she can't continue calling him from there.
- Blithe Spirit: Inverted. Only one character in the entire movie insists that things should be the way they are, but she is subverted by everyone else.
- British Stuffiness: Reverend Mother (it is Maggie Smith, after all). However, this gradually modifies, especially in the sequel.
- Call-Back: Reverend Mother does not approve of the nuns leaving the convent at night, following Deloris into the bar across the streets, because people don't respect religious figures much in their neighborhood. "These robes no longer protect our sisters. The walls do." Later, Deloris is abducted by Vince's thugs, Willy and Joey. They bring her back to the Moonlight Lounge and Vince orders them to shoot her — but they refuse, because "We can't waste a nun."
- Character Development:
- Deloris learns how to treat others with more respect and becomes more spiritual and less mouthy.
- Reverend Mother learns that while there's nothing wrong with the traditional ways of the Church, it's important to be open to new ideas.
- Sister Mary Robert learns how to be more confident and gets over her stage fright. In fact, she's the one who rallies the nuns to save Deloris after she gets kidnapped by Vince's goons.
- Chekhov's Skill: Deloris's backup singers wonder what will happen to the act without Deloris to "pick all the music and tell us where to stand and everything"; i.e., she is the group's music arranger as well as its lead singer, which comes in handy in the convent choir as well.
- Christianity Is Catholic: Justified; how many people know that Anglicans and Orthodox Christians, among others, have nuns?
- Cool Old Lady:
- Sister Alma may be old and deaf, but she sure can tickle that ivory.
- Sister Mary Lazarus is pretty hip too. Despite her insistence upon how unhip she is.
- Reverend Mother is more this in the second movie, having gone through a Defrosting Ice Queen in film #1.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Had Dolores waited a day to try returning Vince's wife's mink coat, she wouldn't have walked in on him murdering someone, which is what kicks off the plot.
- Curse Cut Short: Deloris starts to say that the nuns' food taste like "shit"; Reverend Mother stops her by declaring a vow of silence.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Vince's hitmen Joey and Willy are very reluctant about killing a nun, even if it's someone they know dressed as a nun. Just the fact that she may have found God in her time at the convent is enough to make Joey and Willy uncomfortable and they even go along with her when she starts praying. Although he won't admit it, even Vince seems to have difficulty bringing himself to shoot Deloris while she's in a nun's habit, and his brief moment of stalling is just enough for the police to catch up to him.Reverend Mother: I guarantee you she is no broad! She is Sister Mary Clarence of St. Katherine's Convent. She's a model of generosity, virtue, and love! You have my word for it, gentlemen, she is a nun!
Willy: [to Vince] Ya hear that? Now, aren't you glad we didn't shoot her?
- Everyone Has Standards: At the beginning of the film, Deloris is carrying on with Vince knowing full well that he's married and is generally a smart-mouthed, unpleasant person. She's almost tempted to return to him when he tries to buy her off with a gorgeous mink coat...but then she finds his wife's initials in it. Even the opportunistic Deloris can't bring herself to do that—"You don't earn other people's wives' fur coats, OK?"— and declares that enough is enough. Unfortunately, this sudden pang of conscience makes her witness Vince murdering someone, and kicks off the plot.
- The Faceless: Pope John Paul II's face is never shown, even though he appears from behind (presumably because he's too famous to portray with an actor and they could never get the real Pope to make a cameo in this film). However, his coat of arms is clearly visible in the background hanging from the logia where he sits.
- The Family for the Whole Family: Played straight with Joey and Willy; averted with Vince.
- Fiery Redhead: Sister Mary Robert is a total aversion.
- Fish out of Water: Deloris at first in the convent.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble:
- Fur and Loathing: Vince tries to buy Deloris back by giving her a mink coat; Downplayed in the sense that it's not the fact that it's a fur coat, but the fact that it belongs to Vince's wife that makes Deloris reject it. Her rage at this and attempts to return it make her an eyewitness to a murder.
- Gender-Blender Name: As with many (but not all) nun orders, all of the nuns are named "Sister Mary X", with X being a male saint's name. The only two exceptions are Reverend Mother, who is called only by her title, and the nearly-deaf pianist Sister Alma.
- God-Is-Love Songs: Played with. Romantic songs such as "My Guy" are given new lyrics, focusing on religion rather than romance.
- Gospel Choirs Are Just Better: A highlight of the film is Deloris turning her talents to direct the convent's choir. Despite being more at home with Vegas show tunes, she takes to the role with aplomb, transforming them into a hot Gospel choir. Significantly, this represents a turning point for everyone involved.
- Groin Attack: Deloris does this to both of Vince's goons after a prayer on her knees.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Reverend Mother lied to the thieves when saying that "Mary Clarence" is indeed a nun, when she is not. Remember, Reverend Mother is a nun (and a highly conservative one to boot), and saying lies is a big deal for them (it's one of the Ten Commandments). But, if she didn't, they would have killed Deloris, which justified it.
- It's hardly the first time Reverend Mother "lied" in this movie—see I Lied entry below.
- It's also possible that she realized that Deloris, while not an avowed nun, did have the spirit and heart of one, so she was technically speaking the truth.
- It may also be a form of Exact Words - Deloris isn't a nun, but Sister Mary Clarence (the "person" which just happens to occupy the same physical space as Deloris) is
- There's also Deloris herself working to free Mary Robert from Vince's goons. She ends up shoving the younger woman out of the car, choosing to save her (and by extension, the other nuns) rather than escape.
- Blink and you'll miss it, but right as Vince is about to shoot Deloris (and Lt. Souther shoots him instead), the Reverend Mother instinctively moves forward with her arms extended, as if she intended to Take the Bullet.
- Hidden Depths: The main theme of the movie. Both Deloris and the nuns show it.
- Hollywood Nuns: All over this movie. And subverted in many ways.
- I'll Kill You!: When Lt. Souther sees Deloris Van Cartier (AKA: "Sister Mary Clarence") on TV, he's upset that Deloris is making no real attempt at hiding.Lt. Souther: I'm gonna kill her! I'm gonna kill her myself!
- I'm Going to Hell for This: Mary Lazarus believes sneaking ice cream into the convent is an indulgence, however...Sister Mary Lazarus: This is a sin, it's a wicked indulgence. [beat] Didn't they have any butter pecan?
- I Lied: Reverend Mother says this after the monsignor reminds her of her "vow of hospitality."
- Kitchen Chase: After Deloris witnesses the murder, her getaway takes her through the casino's kitchen.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Bless you.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Monsignor O'Hara and the Reverend Mother are the only ones in the convent who know about "Mary Clarence's" true origins until Deloris gets snatched by the mob.
- Lost in a Crowd: Double Subverted. Near the end of the film, Deloris escapes into a casino, where she sticks out because she's wearing her nun's habit... until a bunch of the other nuns also run into the casino to find her.
- The Mafia: Vince's Reno organization.
- Magical Negro: Deloris, especially as the Token Black of the convent in the first film.
- A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens with Deloris (about age nine) getting into trouble at a Catholic school for naming The Apostles as John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
- Missed Him by That Much: When the convent's good deeds and efforts to clean up their neighborhood make the news, Vince's wife Connie is seen watching the story. She calls to her husband (who has his back turned while practicing billiards) to come see the "cute little nuns"; had Vince turned around a few moments earlier, he would have spotted Deloris.
- The Mole: A corrupt policeman informs Vince about where Deloris is hiding.
- Noodle Incident: Whatever the deal was with "Buckwheat Bertha"...
- One Steve Limit: Most of the nuns are called Sister Mary something but it's common for nuns to be given names like this when they join.
- Parenthetical Swearing: When Vince is being taken away by the cops.Deloris: I got two words for you, Vince.
Sister Mary Robert: [gasps] Mary Clarence!
Deloris: ...Bless you.
- Perpetual Smiler: Sister Mary Patrick. And it's genuine.
- Prayer of Malice: Played with during the climax. When the helicopter pilot refuses to fly the nuns to Reno, they pray, out loud and right in front of him in passive-aggressive fashion, that God will be kinder to him in his own hour of need than he was to them in theirs. They needle him by committee until he changes his mind.
- Also played with in a very similar way with Deloris and Vince's goons. When they untie her to take off her nun's costume (as they "can't waste a nun"), she immediately falls to the floor and begins praying, begging God to forgive them for having to do Vince's dirty work. The men actually go along with it and cross themselves...and that's when Deloris uses her kneeling positions to whack them in their crotches and run off.
- Reaction Shot: The scene in which the choir represents its new and improved self is full of these.
- Sassy Black Woman: Deloris, largely due to Whoopi Goldberg playing the part. (The producers originally didn't envision Deloris even being black; their first choice for the role was Bette Midler.)
- Scream Discretion Shot: Deloris, upon seeing herself in a habit for the first time. "I look like a penguin!"
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Deloris' reaction upon hearing about the vow of chastity she's expected to follow while doing her time disguised as a nun. She's dragged back by Mother Superior.
- Shout-Out: Look close at the back of the church in the final song of the first movie and you'll see The Blues Brothers in a rather familiar stance....
- Shrinking Violet: Sister Mary Robert.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Pretty high on the idealistic end, as Diana Ross cover songs are all that's needed to turn a slum into a vibrant street corner. The Reverend Mother expresses cynicism that her nuns can handle the harsh realities of the street, but that's because she's the in-universe "Stop Having Fun" Nun and her lesson is about how you can't shelter yourself away from the real world.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Deloris van Cartier, according to the subtitles. While the surname was chosen, it seems that her given name was spelled that way even as a child.
- Take a Third Option: Regarding singing the traditional way as Reverend Mother wanted or the new popular way brought by Deloris in the Pope visit. In the end, they ended up singing the first verse traditionally and then transitioning to the newer way.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Deloris' character arc is essentially this. Exemplified best when she is running for her life in the beginning she knocks people down and just runs. At the end, she stops to make sure they are all right, despite guns shooting at her.
- Two Words: Added Emphasis:Deloris: I got two words for you, Vince.Reverend Mother: Mary Clarence!Deloris: (after a Beat) Bless you.
- Viva Las Vegas!: The beginning and end of the first movie are set in Reno, which is close enough. Reverend Mother isn't too impressed.Sister Mary Patrick: And what a lovely name, Reno!
Reverend Mother: ...and Gomorrah!
- Vow of Celibacy: Deloris is not pleased when she is informed of the requirements of being a nun by the mother superior.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Deloris gets two of them.
Reverend Mother: Girl groups?! Boogie woogie on the piano?! What were you thinking?!Deloris I was thinking more like Vegas, you know? Get some butts in the seats.Reverend Mother: And what next? Popcorn? Curtain calls? This is not a theater or a casino.Deloris: Yeah, but that's the problem. See, people like going to theaters, and they like going to casinos, but they don't like coming to church. Why? Because it's a drag. But we could change all that, see? We could pack this joint.Reverend Mother: Through blasphemy? You have corrupted the entire choir!Delores: How can you say that? I worked my butt off with these women! They've given up their free time to do this, and they're good! I mean, sister, we could, we could rock this place!Reverend Mother: Out of the question! As of tomorrow, Mary Lazarus resumes her leadership of the choir.
- The first from the Reverend Mother, after the choir's performance of "Hail Holy Queen".
(Lt. Souther sees the convent and Deloris, attempting to hide her face on the news)Lt. Souther: I'll kill her. I'll kill her myself!(Lt. Souther shows up at the next mass)Deloris: What are you doing here?Lt. Souther: How come I saw you on TV?Deloris: That was not my fault. These people just showed up. But it's been really good for the convent.Lt. Souther: You're supposed to be hiding out. Remember? Bullets flying through the air at you. Ring a bell?Deloris: Yes. But I can't talk about it now because I have a show in five minutes.Lt. Souther: Listen to yourself. This is not a career opportunity.Deloris: You don't have to tell me that. This would not be the place to begin a career.
- The second was from Lt. Eddie Souther, after the convent get media attention, almost exposing Deloris hiding.
- Witness Protection: Deloris enters this in the first movie.
- You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Deloris' reaction when Eddie wants to disguise herself as a nun.Deloris: You must be out of your... You know what? I'm gonna go back and work this out with Vince. You're a lunatic! (Storms out of the church with Eddie trying to stop her) I'm not gonna be in no damn convent with these people! These people don't even have sex!
The second film provides examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming/Malicious Misnaming: Mr. Crisp at first has difficulty remembering the Clarence in Sister Mary Clarence. Once he learns she is not a real nun, he stops trying to remember her given pseudonym and just calls her Sister Mary Fake.
- Mary Clarence returns the favor by calling him Crispy. As does the Reverend Mother in her last parting shot to him!
- Arc Words: In the second movie: "If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention."
- As the Good Book Says...: Father Ignatius tries to encourage Mary Clarence by quoting from the Bible, O ye be of strong will. Mary Lazarus follows up by saying, And ye better be as tough as nails too.
- Banister Slide: Mary Clarence does one of these.
- Big Bad: It is obviously clear that Mr. Crisp doesn't care about the children or school and he wants it closed.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- When Frank-ay and Maria overhear the nuns mentioning that "Sister Mary Clarence" has a past in Vegas, they give the camera synchronized confused looks and say, "Vegas?"
- And of course the camera mob during the closing credits....
- Comically Missing the Point: When Mary Clarence sits down on the seat with glue, all the students cry out a whispered Yes and respond excitedly when she talks about fusion. She thinks the students are saying Yes because they agree with her love for The Supremes. Only later does she realize they are celebrating their successful prank against her.
- Compliment Backfire: Reverend Mother tells Deloris that she is an example of how a sows ear can be turned into a silk purse. Deloris wouldnt have phrased it that way.
- Cool Old Lady: Many of the nuns who sing Ball of Confusion at the retirement home definitely count as this.
- Crowd Song: The movie ends with the whole cast singing Aint No Mountain High Enough.
- Demoted to Extra: Outside the finale, the Reverend Mother only appears in three scenes in the movie.
- Drives Like Crazy: Father Thomas in the second film.
- Education Mama: Initially, Rita's mom does not bless her choir participation. It's made quite clear, albeit obliquely, that the reason she disapproves of her daughter's desire to sing and instead tries to force her to focus only on education is not a general "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" or "you have to have better opportunities and do better than I did" mentality, but because her husband tried the same path, failed utterly, and died leaving the family destitute. So it isn't that she disparages Rita's dream, but that she finds it impractical and unrealistic and is afraid pursuing it could cost her, the same as happened to him.
- Failed a Spot Check: The friars apparently never met or heard of Deloris van Cartier, despite being in the same city as the convent she previously stayed in and working with the same nuns as she did. Were there no conversations about Deloris before the nuns decided to recruit her? The Pope came to San Francisco specifically to hear Deloris choir! Given that, Mr. Crisp should have heard of her as well.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Distaff example. Rita's mother is determined to squash her dreams of becoming a singer. She won't even allow her to join the school choir as an extra curricular because she thinks she should be spending all her time studying to get into a good college. Rita's mother doesn't realize that colleges are more likely to accept her daughter if she presents things like being in the choir.
- 555: Shows up when Rita is filling out her permission slip.
- Full-Name Ultimatum: Rita Louise Watson!
- Funny Background Event: After the rap segment in "Joyful Joyful", we see one of the boys run like a bunny to get back into his position in the choir.
- Genre Shift: The first movie is a Witness Protection comedy, while the sequel is a Save Our Students dramedy.
- Henpecked Husband: A non spouse example, the priests are all practically under Mr. Crisp's foot.
- Hey, Let's Put on a Show: While the choir competition in the sequel isn't created or put on by Deloris and the other nuns, it otherwise fulfills this trope, seeing as it a) gives the students confidence in themselves b) proves the school is and can be successful again and c) convinces the archdiocese not to close it.
- Incredibly Long Note: Ahmal at the end of Oh Happy DayAhmal: When Jesus waaaaaaaaaaashed my sins away!
- Inner City School: The main setting of the second movie, with mostly African-American students and a few Hispanic and white kids.
- Insistent Terminology: At the end of the film, the kids find out that she worked in Vegas, and they ask her about whether she was a Vegas showgirl.Deloris: Let's get one thing straight... I am not, nor have I ever been, a Las Vegas showgirl. I am a headliner!
- Malcolm Xerox: Wesley, or as he prefers to be called, Ahmal Mjomo Jamaael," which means "He who is spirited.
- Nails on a Blackboard: In the second film, this is how Deloris gets the students' attention.
- Noodle Incident: Apparently, the Reverend Mother and Father Maurice caused Bishop O'Malley a lot of problems.
- Passing the Torch: In the first film, Deloris gets to know the sweet, Shrinking Violet novice Mary Robert, helping her to find her voice (literally) and become confident in herself. In the sequel, Mary Robert performs something of the same role (and even lampshades it to Deloris) for Rita.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure:
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Frank-ay (ayy-oh-ayy) is actually a pretty good rapper.
- Previously On : The events of Sister Act are summed up with a medley at the beginning of the sequel.
- Save Our Students: Deloris' nun friends ask her to help turn around the choir of the Catholic school she attended as a child. Also overlaps with Saving the Orphanage, since thanks to the greedy superintendent, if Deloris can't turn the problem class around, the archdiocese is going to close the whole school and have it torn down to make, yes, a parking lot.
- So Proud of You: Rita's mother says this to her at the end of the movie.
- Society Marches On: Historically, non-Catholic families have sent their children to Catholic schools in order to ensure that they get a better education than they would in public schools. Today, charter schools have largely filled that niche at no tuition cost. As such, the events of this movie are far less likely to happen in an inner-city setting today.
- Spontaneous Choreography: Technically averted, since some of the students are briefly shown practicing the dance moves when they first arrive at the competition. Still, its hard to imagine how they wouldve done all those moves in the choir robes.
- Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Rita's mother doesn't know that Rita has gone to the competition until she gets home, several hours after the class has left, and yet she's still able to make the 376-mile trip to Hollywood in time for the competition, conveniently arriving and taking her seat just seconds before her daughter begins singing on stage.
- Whoopi Epiphany Speech: The sequel is pretty much one long one of these. (Incidentally, they work.)
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: "Who Got the Flo?" and the rap sequence in "Joyful, Joyful".
- Your Mom: When Deloris first meets the students, they are trading a series of these jokes.
The stage musical provides examples of:
- Adaptation Name Change: Deloris' real name is Doris Wilson with Deloris Van Cartier being a stage name. Her gangster ex-boyfriend Vince has been renamed Curtis.
- Ambiguously Gay: The two antique-dealing bachelors who want to buy the convent.
- Big Eater: The musical version makes clear Sister Mary Patrick is one. The lyrics to "How I Got the Calling" specify she found God's vocation through food, such as seeing "the face of Jesus in a coconut cream pie."
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': When Deloris and the nuns sneak to a bar across the street on her first night, they almost run into Curtis' goons.
- City of Adventure: Set entirely in Philadelphia, instead of the Witness Protection moving Deloris from Reno to San Francisco like in the movie.
- Confessional: Mother Superior accidentally confesses to Deloris rather than Monseigneur O'Hara in one.
- Conscience Makes You Go Back: Deloris goes to stay with Eddie after Curtis finds out she was in the convent but then goes back to the nuns because they need her to help them perform for the pope.
- Disappeared Dad: Deloris' father left when she was a child.
- Disguised in Drag: Curtis' goons sneak into the convent while dressed as nuns.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": Deloris hates Eddie calling her Doris.
- Doom Magnet: Sister Mary Lazarus joined the sisterhood for protection after her family started dying off in accidents, culminating in her hometown being hit by a tornado.
- Doorstop Baby: Sister Mary Robert was left in the convent as a baby.
- Everyone Went to School Together: Deloris and Lt. Eddie Souther were in the same class.
- It Kind of Looks Like a Face: In "How I Got The Calling", Sister Mary Patrick said she became a nun after seeing Jesus, Mary and various saints' faces in food.
- "I Want" Song: "The Life I Never Led" is Sister Mary Robert singing about things she can't do because she's a nun.
- Musical World Hypothesis: People now randomly burst into song as well as having realistic rehearsals and performances.
- Nepotism: Curtis' idiot nephew, JT works for him.
- Pistol-Whipping: The nuns knock Curtis' mooks out with their own guns.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The "Deloris getting the nuns to improve the neighborhood" and "Mother Superior threatening to quit" subplots are dropped. Deloris is seen on by Curtis on TV because the nuns singing made the news.
- Promoted to Love Interest: Eddie to Deloris.
- Quirky Mini Boss Squad: Curtis' goons, Joey, JT and Pablo.
- Race Lift: Vince/Curtis is now black and Lt. Souther is white.
- Setting Update: Inverted; the film was set in the then-present, but the musical goes back to 1978, so that Alan Menken could do disco style songs. The physical setting also changes, with the story being transplanted from San Francisco to Philadelphia.
- Summon Everyman Hero: The play starts with Mother Superior praying to God to save the convent. We then get a Gilligan Cut to Deloris performing on stage in a nightclub.
- Title Drop: Deloris' song, "Sister Act".
- Trademark Favorite Food: Philly cheese steaks for Deloris.
- Villain Song: "When I Find My Baby" is Curtis singing about how he's going to find and kill Deloris.
- Witless Protection Program: Justified, the main character under witness protection is found by the mob thanks to a mole working inside of police headquarters. The police know (or at least suspect) the leak exists, but it takes some time for them to find and plug it. Unfortunately, the mole finds the protagonist and reports her to the mob just before he gets caught. Also downplayed in that it takes most of the length of the film for the mole to find her in the first place.