Show: SISTER ACT
Venue: The Epsom PlayhouseAshley AvenueEpsomSurreyKT18 5AL
Credits: Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane, lyrics by Glenn Slater and music by Alan Menken
Type: Independent (registered user)
Performance Date: 18/11/2015
Paul Johnson | 26 Nov 2015 18:25pm
I have followed Chris Malone’s Directorial career with some interest over the last few years. I was fortunate enough to bear witness to both ‘The History Boys’ and ‘Journey’s End’ two incredibly well-crafted pieces of theatre. Having seen the triumph Mr Malone can produce in an intimate setting, it was with some trepidation that I took my seat a few rows from the front at The Epsom Playhouse on Saturday night. I needn’t have worried; Mr Malone seems to inspire the same result on the main stage…it was a glorious evening.
To start with and to get it out of the way, the score: 5 stars. In fact I would probably say 6, just in case one got lost. It had everything I wanted.
First mention is to the Stage Manager Sarah Wood and her crew. Superb. What a huge and unwieldy set, and somewhat ironic that almost everything seemed to come from the heavens…have I ever seen quite so much flying? Not since the Battle of Britain. The slick set changes however made it look easy. And it looked fantastic. The lighting was perfect, setting off the faux stained glass, and spotting where necessary, it was a very well deigned plot, executed to the usual high standards of Mr Malone’s team.
Sound also should be mentioned. Firstly the band, who under the accomplished Mr Marr’s baton managed to transport me to a Gospel Church in the deep south, and accompany the soulful and heartfelt ballads with equal aplomb. The mic plot also looked complicated, no doubt requiring all ten fingers (and a few more no doubt) of Stuart Vaughan whose talents I have witnessed so many times.
So to the performances, in no particular order:
Siobhan Doyle and Becky Hill gave us Deloris’s ‘two stooges’ and were hilarious with it. A great opening number to the show, both have cracking voices and the moves to match. Their comedy scene was a great start to the show (other characters are not being ignored, they will be addressed later)
The communal nun scenes were excellent throughout; enthusiastic, energetic, and except where deliberately dreadful, heavenly sounding! Valerie Carr, Jo Pandolfi and Bernie Davis deserve a special mention for their comedy turns, all three working their parts to the maximum, and wringing every drop from them. Fantastic.
Ken Smith was the Monsigneur and his dancing certainly showed that he was a man of God (as in ‘Oh my God, that’s hilarious) this was a nice part for Ken, and he played it well.
Maggie Bradshaw did a superb job as Mother Superior, her exasperation as the situation spiralled out of control was clear from her voice and her facial expressions. Perhaps I would have liked a little more crossing herself and arm flinging, but perhaps I just like my exasperated Nuns to be a little more demonstrative. It took nothing away from her performance, she sung well, and more than held her own in a large and challenging part.
Paige Leanne Fayers was a lovely sister. She gave great characterisation, and sang her parts well. It is just a shame that the part tailed off a little in the second half. This is not Miss Fayers fault at all, and she did well with what she was given, her comedy was good and she was an enthusiastic member of the Nun’s chorus.
And then we have Sweaty Eddie played by Zak Negri. Lovely Eddie. Who could walk out of that auditorium having not fallen in love with Sweaty Eddie. I felt sorry for him in the police station, and I was cheering for him at the end, and he got the girl!! Of course he did. It was fab. Zak’s voice was wonderful, he was perfect for that role. I loved loved loved his song, and having been told there was a wardrobe malfunction earlier in the week, I almost wish it had happened on Saturday. It could only have added to the humour Zak brought to the role. And the strut at the end was just spot on. Well done Zak, a good role for you! One almost feels that with a bit more confidence (It grew visibly during the performance) there are many character roles that Zak could tackle manfully.
One of my favourites was Sister Mary Robert played by Hannah Vincent.. One of the only characters in the show with a journey. Hannah’s comedy timing was spot on, and she does heartfelt very well. Her song was a highlight for me. I truly believed her, both times. What a sweet voice. Sing more please Hannah! I also believed the friendship between Mary Robert and Deloris. They were a nice pair on stage. Well done Hannah.
It is not often I get to see Danny Willis out of a frock, having seen him most recently in Hairspray as the wonderful ‘Edna Turnblad’, as well numerous pantomimes as the ‘Dame’. But this was new for me! And I really enjoyed it. Danny sings very nicely, it comes very naturally to him, making it very comforting watching him. Being able to put ‘macho’ across while singing in an accent and moving is not easy. Gun handling doesn’t automatically come to everyone either. He was very convincing. I am also glad he handed his face off for this show. The fact that it was on Olly Reeves caused no surprise to me (it was only a matter of time) but delighted the audience. A nice, if sleep preventing cameo!
Michael Guerriero, George Lester and Sebastian Roughley. I want them to follow me around and sing and dance for me for the rest of my life. As a standalone, ‘Lady in the long black dress’ was outstanding. It was very, very funny. And so well put together. It wasn’t self indulgent and didn’t descend into an in joke as these things so often can. The nicest thing for me about this song, was that of all the cast members I could hear talking after the show, they all seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. That’s not to mention the delight of the audience! That sort of camaraderie is evidence of three guys with no egos, and a real team effort amongst the cast. Like a lot of the parts in this show, the boys didn’t have an enormous amount to work with, but my goodness, they wrung every last drop out of those three parts. Superb performances, very funny and a credit to the society, all three of them.
The night belonged however, to Jalisa Andrews. From minute one, Jalisa was on fire. Those pipes, my goodness, that girl can sang! And the sass, I felt she could have turned me to stone. What a superlative performance. Each funny line beautifully delivered, faultless comedy timing, and moves to spare. I LOVED her. And she was believable. Personalities as massive as that often become a bit of a caricature, but Jalisa was as small as she was huge when the part required. Meek and mild where she needed to be, but huge sassy diva the rest of the time. Well done Jalisa, I have a feeling I will be seeing you on many more stages in the coming years, and I for one can’t wait!!
Well, what a night. Apart from enormous amounts of praise needing to be heaped on the society for fabulous costumes, great props and general attention to detail, there are three people that need to be mentioned individually.
Mr James Marr put together a great band, and it added a huge amount to the performance, however it needs to be said that getting that many people to sing harmonies on stage whilst dancing in habits (doubtless on top of other costumes) is not an easy task. Kudos Mr Marr, you did a great job.
The role of the choreographer is one that I am constantly in awe of. I can’t dance, and I envy anyone that can. To have the ability to get a cast like the cast of this show moving the way they were is a huge credit to Josie Hazell and a real mark of her talent. It never ceases to impress me when it works, and this worked. A stage chock full of people of mixed dancing ability, all moving and all looking good. Fabulous baby!
And lastly Mr Malone. A Director who is never knowingly out-velveted. Chris seems to attract success with his shows. I think it is a combination of attracting the talent, and putting together a team that works (including the cast). This show was thoughtfully directed. It made sense. And it all worked. Chris instils confidence in a cast and crew. He knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it. Congratulations Chris on a fine, fine show, and a superb Saturday night out. I cannot wait for the next one!
- : user
- : 18/11/2015