First, appropriately, a confession...
I went to this show with low expectations, having seen it at the London Palladium a few years ago - a dull production, the only memorable features being the spectacular singing of the nuns and the presence of Ian Lavender as Monsignor O'Hara.
But for me this was a very different show - funny, vibrant and very entertaining from beginning to end.
The key protagonists in Sister Act are the conservative and devout Mother Superior and the nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier, who is avoiding the deadly attention of her former lover by joining a convent. Both roles are very demanding in terms of singing and acting. Mindy Robinson was excellent as the Mother Superior, serious and at times completely exasperated with a situation not of her making. Mindy has a fine singing voice which gave full expression to her songs - I especially enjoyed 'Here Within These Walls', a clever, funny song sung with subtlety and intelligence. Beth Hodgson was a huge presence on stage - cast just right as Doloris. Beth has a great voice, which did justice to everything she sang and she accomplished the transformation from brash hedonist to the respcetful and grounded young woman she becomes by the end of the show with aplomb. Smashing!
The nuns were all terrific - lovely ensemble work. Lisa Simpson made a totally convincing 'away with the fairies' Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours, and Sally Whitestone a grumpy but also very funny Sister Mary Lazarus. Especially impressive was Lillian Thorn as Sister Mary Robert - her solo The Life I Never Led beautifully expressing the young nun's uncertainty about her future in the convent.
Mark Woodham as Monsignor O'Hara seemed to gain confidence as the show went on and I enjoyed Pete Thorn's portrayal of the shy police office Eddie Souther - who eventually gets his girl.
Matthew Berrill was very convincing as nightclub owner/hoodlum Curtis and there was a lot of fun to be had from the performances of Josh Wright, David Routledge and Dan Hodson - who had the audience (especially the ladies!) in the palm of his hand with his verse of Lady in the Long Black Dress - as a trio of ineffectual henchmen.
Accents and diction were very good.
All accompanied by an excellent 12 piece orchestra led by Graham Tear. On the whole sound quality and balance was good, though there were on or two problems with microphones. For the most part lighting was good, though there were also one or two notable glitches here too.
The set, from Scenic Projects, was excellent, with all the other elements giving the whole show a professional feel. Scene changes - and there are many - were well-managed by the backstage crew.
A nice, rather meaningful story, great songs and lots of comedy (some of which I thought the audience missed on the night I went) made for a very fine show - so, thanks to Northampton Musical Theatre Group, for me, a complete redemption of Sister Act has taken place.