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Sister Act - musical review


Hallelujah! Let’s rejoice as the iconic Catholic comedy is back on the road - Sister Act is currently touring the UK, and soon to be heading back to London too. The smash-hit musical is known for its longevity as both a beloved film and show, which is adored by many fans who can't get enough of the catchy songs, amusing characters and abundance of laughs. This version of the production is no different and will be sure to satisfy all your divine needs.

Blessed to have Landi Oshinowo leading as the sassy star, Deloris Van Cartier, her fiery attitude brings enthusiasm from the get-go. Adorned with glitz, and desperate for faux fur in her life, the wannabe singer tries to impress industry businessman/married boyfriend (and gangster), Curtis Jackson - played by Ian Gareth-Jones. After a disappointing Christmas gift and being turned down by him and his group of men, Deloris accidentally overhears a shooting and becomes wanted to ensure she refrains from giving evidence. On the run and in need of a hiding place, where better than a nunnery?

Much to the disapproval of both extroverted and opinionated Deloris, and Mother Superior (Lori Haley Fox), who is gloriously grumpy and has no shame keeping everyone in line, their clashed personalities make for an interesting combination. Ideal acoustics and some shockingly questionable choir voices give Deloris (renamed Sister Mary Clarence) something to work with, though the job is tough, and the place threatened to be bought through lack of funding.

Amongst the visually engrossing characterisation of each of the sisters, the collective group scenes display such an array of personalities, that you never know where to look. Julie Stark becomes Sister Mary Lazarus, being the funky bass; joined by Wendy-Lee Purdy as Sister Mary Theresa and Katy Powell as Sister Mary Martin of Tours (when the character remembered where she was!). Sister Mary Patrick, played fantastically by Isabel Canning, fills every moment with immense enthusiasm and joy in her flamboyant act, meanwhile, Eloise Runnette aces the notes as the youngest of the group, Sister Mary Robert.

Despite not every song being particularly lyrically memorable, their execution promises they are. Alan Menker's music with Glenn Slater's work too guarantees you to be grooving along in your seat, only wanting to hear more (once Deloris is in charge of teaching the choir, of course). Several have an opportunity to display their individual skill, beginning with Deloris, setting the tone with the addictive 'Take Me to Heaven' and 'Fabulous, Baby!' to kick off the show. This is soon followed by the juxtaposing 'Here Within These Walls' as Mother Superior reminisces on the place they reside. 'Raise Your Voice' is the moment the production truly comes together and reminds us what theatre is all about.

'When I Find My Baby' is Curtis' song, with Joey, TJ and Pablo (Callum Martin, Elliot Gooch and Michalis Antoniou respectively) showing off their 'quirky' ways, as repeated during 'Lady in the Long Black Dress', deciphering their ways to seduce a nun. A truly stand-out moment occurs when Sister Mary Robert sings 'The Life I Never Led'. It's a stunning track that provides a vocal performance to be proud of: goosebumps, as that girl can hold a note!

Stealing the show upon each appearance, Alfie Parker's depiction of policeman Eddie Souther is great. His solo, 'I Could Be That Guy' is performed brilliantly, with a quick change that is without a doubt one of the best in the industry. The production in all does well to balance the humour with the general storyline of the piece. While many elements are for the laughs and there's an unfathomable plot, it's also enjoyable to experience a mix of meaning in there too. For instance, Monsignor O'Hara (Phillip Arran) and his jazzy glasses in a cocktail with the track 'Sister Act', sung gently but with passion by Deloris despite her usual spark, to indicate her development and understanding of her place in the world, with a theme of community and togetherness, rather than being just entirely a comedy.

The bigger set pieces around the stage are beautifully coordinated with the light shining through them to create the stained glass effect, and disco balls too. However, the moving set pieces and props aren't particularly special (though perhaps reflective of the bland nunnery atmosphere at large), leaving the highlights to the choreography by Alistair David and the growing vocal performance, alongside the clever - yet occasionally cheesy - wit of the humour in the script. Morgan Large's costumes complement the scenarios well, contrasting the glamour and sparkle with the monotones of the habit. The closing scenes and curtain call are a delight.

There's no surprise that Sister Act is such a tonic for audiences, being so timeless, established and ultimately feel-good. Leave channelling your inner diva Deloris: it’s simply fabulous, baby!


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