Having seen the film version recently, I sat down with both excitement and trepidation at the musical adaptation of the Whoopi Goldberg classic. With all the glitz and glam of the ’80s showcased through a great soundtrack, costume and lighting, Sister Act and its talented cast most definitely got the rafters ringing.
Following the original plot, Sister Act tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, an aspiring singer, who witnesses a murder at the hands of her married boyfriend, Curtis, before being placed in protective custody in a convent. It’s difficult to blend into a crowd when she wants to stand out but ultimately realises she has an impressive ‘sister act’. Certain elements of the original plot have been altered for the stage adaptation but this does not remove from what is a fantastic story.
Due to an injury, Alexandra Burke could not open the Nottingham leg of the UK tour. Joanna Francis, who acts as the alternative Deloris, took to the stage and absolutely shone. She gave Deloris the attitude, physicality and sass that you would expect with an impressive vocal display to match. In fact, I wonder how Alexandra Burke could top her performance.
”There are no standouts as each member brings their own individuality to the show’’
As a company, the casting was perfect. There are no standouts as each member brings their own individuality to the show. Moments worth mentioning though are Ricky Rojas’ impressive falsetto, how Sarah Goggin makes a belt sound innocent, Liz Kitchen’s mid-song rap, and Karen Mann’s rendition of ‘Haven’t Got a Prayer’.
“Having the convent remain throughout served as a reminder that the sisters and their world are the main focus’’
The cast was brilliant but this performance would have been nothing without Matthew Wright’s set and costume design. The backdrop of the set was the inside of a convent complete with a balcony, organ, columns and the intricate windows you’d expect. The set could be manipulated in ways that allowed for different settings to appear in a minimal format which did not distract from the production at all. Having the convent remain throughout served as a reminder that the sisters and their world are the main focus.
”In my opinion, the establishment of story takes far too long and this reflects in the production’’
The first forty minutes of the production felt mediocre for a reason I could not quite put my finger on. However, after Joe Vetch’s ‘I Could Be That Guy’, the pace of the production picked up, and after ‘Raise Your Voice’ and ‘Take Me to Heaven (Reprise)’ closed the first act, I was anxiously anticipating the second. The mediocracy of the first half comes down to a slow pace. This is down to the writing and score not the cast. In my opinion, the establishment of story takes far too long and this reflects in the production. The cast and orchestra, fabulously led tonight by Simon Lambert, did what they could with this slow start then energised the songs and allowed them to be showy and bold.
”However, it was very distracting as it was not obvious whether the cast were actually playing or whether there was a hidden orchestra somewhere’’
Impressively, a lot of the live music was played on stage by the ensemble. Only a few cast members did not pick up an instrument. This idea was incredible and added to the overall feel of the production. However, it was very distracting as it was not obvious whether the cast were actually playing or whether there was a hidden orchestra somewhere. Because of this, I spent more time during certain songs looking closely at the playing than at the overall aesthetic. Unless you wait until the end where the four band members take their bow, or purchase and read a programme beforehand, it is unclear. I am not disputing the talent or the arrangement – for me to even think they may have used a pre-recording is testament to their skills – but more could have been done to make this onstage playing more obvious from the beginning.
Sister Act is only in Nottingham for two weeks and is unmissable. It is a feel-good musical that will have you singing the songs on your way home. The splendour is grand, the lighting truly showbiz and the work that has gone in to make this production is evident. If you like the film then you will love this musical! And get ready for the sparkles…
9/10 – Unmissable, almost perfect
Image courtesy of the Theatre Royal
‘Sister Act’ is running at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 11th February. For more information and where to find tickets see here