Paul Johnson | 26 Mar 2015 11:01am
Based on the hugely popular 1992 film of the same name, Sister Act brings what is arguably Whoopi Goldberg’s most memorable comic character from screen to stage, along with a large cast of nuns, gangsters and cops.
The film’s script was full of wit and warmth with colourful characters and singing to lift your soul. The characters in the stage version are instantly recognisable from the film, from flamboyant nightclub singer Deloris, through to enthusiastic nun of the year Sister Mary Patrick. A lot of the script is lifted directly from the film, bringing some lovely moments.
Unfortunately the musical is let down by a very inconsistent score. While some of the numbers certainly get your toes tapping,there is no stand out show stopper or memorable tune. And a song that explains why It’s Good To Be A Nun is just terrible. The show would also benefit from more character development as the majority seem very one dimensional. That said, if you’re looking for an evening of straight forward entertainment, you won’t be disappointed.
Director Larissa Webb staged the production very intelligently, using a bare set and minimal furniture, allowing her large cast as much space as possible in which to perform. She made great use of lighting to create the contrast between the various locations – moving from the convent and cathedral into seedy clubs and alleyways. This was all very effective and made for smooth transitions between scenes, allowing the action to flow nicely.
The band, under the control of Music Director Steve Trill, gave a very strong 70s sound. At times the sound balance was a little uneven, with cast mics failing which meant they were either drowned by the band or a solo line that should soar above the chorus was lost under the ensemble voices. Singing plaudits must go to the female cast with some impressive vocals from the principal actors.
Undoubtedly the most impressive part of the show was the costumes – from the immaculate nuns’ habits to the showier numbers (I cannot say more – no spoilers!), Jacky Webb and Jan Duckett have absolutely exceeded expectations to bring us a cast dressed to professional standards.
I found that the show itself did not really get into its stride until towards the end of the first act, when Deloris, now masquerading as ‘Sister Mary Clarence’ begins to work with the choir. Up until this point, the show was held back by slow plot development and weak musical numbers. The cast also seemed to relax more into their performances having reached this stage, the choir, of course, being the main attraction that we’ve all come to see.
The success of Sister Act depends on having an absolute star to play leading lady Deloris. In Janine Kelly, Eldorado have almost found this. She has a powerful voice with a beautiful, rich tone. She looks fabulous and has some good comic timing. I did feel that she lacked a little bit of the charisma and star quality you need from Deloris (particularly in the opening number when her backing singers almost upstaged her performance), but perhaps this was opening night nerves. Her rendition of the title song Sister Act in the second act was perfectly delivered with genuine emotion and passion and was a highlight of the show.
The stand-out performances for me came from Jane Kerfoot as the Mother Superior and Annalise Webb as shy Sister Mary Robert. You could see the personal journey their characters were taking, growing in understanding and in confidence respectively thanks to the influence of Sister Mary Clarence, and their solo songs were exceptional. Jane, in particular, impressed by managing to not lose audience sympathy, despite her clear opposition to her ‘progressive’ new house guest.
Although I would perhaps have hoped for a stronger sound and clearer harmonies from a company of 25 nuns, the group numbers were still mostly great fun. This was clearly a cast that was loving working alongside their Sisters, and their enthusiasm for the simple but effective choreography was evident.
This show is clearly one for the ‘sisters’, but special mention should go to Adrian Morrissey who managed to impress with his vocals, dancing and sympathetic characterisation of Eddie Souther. That’s quite difficult to do with a hero who is introduced as ‘Sweaty Eddie’. The romantic sub-plot with Deloris felt a bit rushed and unnecessary but Adrian and Janine had good chemistry and carried it off well.
Eldorado’s production sold out weeks ago – which is fantastic news for the company and for the state of amateur theatre in general. Personally I don’t feel that Sister Act itself deserved the rapturous applause from the audience as it is let down by its music and a lack of character development. However, the performances from the cast on stage, on the whole, deserve all of the praise that will no doubt be heaped upon them this week.
- : admin
- : 25/03/2015