Sister Act – The Mayflower Theatre until 17th June
Review by Soraya Scrivener
The Sister Act musical is based loosely on the successful 1992 musical comedy film starring diva Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris van Cartier and Maggie Smith as the Reverend Mother. It premiered in the US in 2006. Whoopi Goldberg’s production followed in the West End in 2009 receiving 4 Olivier Award nominations. It then transferred to Broadway in 2011 gaining 5 Tony Award nominations. The lyrics are by Glenn Slater and the score is by Academy award winning, Alan Menken, best known for Disney scores such as Beauty and The Beast and Aladdin. This is a new production directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood. Horwood’s biography is filled with directing and choreographic credits, but most people will know and love him as Strictly Come Dancing’s ruthless judge.
Set in 1977, Deloris, a wise-cracking, fun-loving club singer decides to leave her married lover, mobster Curtis. She witnesses him shooting a betrayer, which then makes her the next target. Cop, Eddie puts her in witness protection in a Convent and she has to become a Nun until she can testify at Curtis’ trial. She is rather a hilarious handful for the Mother Superior as she finds life in a Convent rather a challenge but ends up transforming the dreadful choir. This creates too much attention but in the end love and friendship conquer Curtis and his henchmen.
I keenly took up my seat half an hour before curtain-up, which is where my confusion began. Recorded music is usually welcome pre-show however Carols filled the auditorium. It’s June! Though beautifully sung I can’t help wondering how many hearts sank thinking how many shopping days there are until Christmas (there are 200 days by the way). Setting it at Christmas time didn’t add anything to the plot. Surprisingly for a Wednesday night the seats were full by curtain up. I suspect a large proportion of the brimming audience were and will continue to be drawn by Alexandra Burke (The XFactor, The Bodyguard) playing Deloris, and quite rightly so when you hear her amazing voice.
Once the singing Nun found her full disco diva character she never looked back, though it would have been nice if she could have looked up to some of her loyal fans in the heavens of the theatre. The rest of the cast led by Karen Mann who was a strong Mother Superior were extremely talented. Many of the actors (14/19) played various instruments on stage which left me in awe of the talent here. However I am not convinced it added much to the show and at times it provided an unwanted distraction to the acting and choreography. Some had instruments and some did not, so half the cast using one arm in numbers was disappointing no matter how clever it was.
Set and costumes were cleverly designed by Matthew Wright and lighting by Richard G Jones. The set which was the interior of a church transformed into different scenes which were a little unclear at times. I thought they had forgotten to fly out a neon sign as it looked as if the henchmen were in the Convent when they were in the street. Perhaps some fake candles would make this more obvious to the audience as I don’t think I was the only one who was confused. The costumes were deliciously 70’s. Deloris’ opening outfit was stunning but I was expecting it to be a bit tackier to contrast Deloris’ diva clothes with her habit.
I particularly enjoyed Aaron Lee Lambert (Curtis) sing the catchy ‘When I find My Baby,’ and Alice Stokoe’s (Sister Mary Robert) heart felt solo ‘The Life I Never Led.’ Joe Vetch (Eddie) shone during the memorable ‘I Could Be That Guy’ and the chorus of tramps using instruments in this number was a particularly effective moment.
The comedy highlight for me was the henchmen trio ‘Lady in The Long Black Dress’ where TJ (Sandy Grigelis), Joey (Samuel Morgan-Grahame) and Pablo (Ricky Rojas) sing to the Nuns. Burke’s ‘Fabulous Baby (Reprise)’ was such a feel-good number and I loved the 7, pink shirt sequinned guys mocking Saturday Night Fever moves.
I’m disappointed to say the direction and choreography was not as ‘A-ma-zing’ as the high energy cast that sparkle along with the glitter balls. There are charming numbers such as ’Bless Our Show’, uplifting numbers such as ‘Take Me to Heaven’ and ‘Raise Your Voice’ and I am still humming the catchy ‘Fabulous Baby.’
At The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton until June 17th and continuing the tour in Newcastle, Canterbury, Plymouth, Manchester, Inverness, Bristol, Belfast, Blackpool, and Dublin. Book for the Tour HERE