REVIEW: Sister Act… holy moly, it’s habit forming!
Sister Act is without doubt one of the most entertaining shows to hit Milton Keynes Theatre in the past nine months, writes Alan Wooding.
Having been held up as one of the funniest films of the 1990s, since 2009 it has wowed theatre audiences after its relaunch on the West End stage as a full-blown musical.
The touring version of Sister Act opened in Milton Keynes this week for a two-week run and immediately sparked great audience reaction. They simply loved the all-singing, all-dancing nuns and the varied selection of sound-alike soul and disco hits.
I say sound-alike because unlike the film, which relied on a soundtrack of 1970s hits, the whole musical has been reworked and rewritten by composer Alan Menken and a lyricist Glenn Slater in the manner you would expect from the likes of Barry White, The Commadores, Diane Ross or the Stylisticks.
It’s hugely entertaining from start to finish and, having been produced by Whoopi Goldberg – the star of the original film with a script is written by Cherie and Bill Steinkellner – the production is so slick that it really does leave you wanting more.
The talented Cynthia Erivo takes on the role of Deloris Van Cartier originally played by Goldberg. She’s a Diana Ross lookalike and is every inch a 1970s soul sister. From her bouffant hair-do, purple thigh-high boots and shimmering sequins, it all sets the scene for a glittering spectacle.
Deloris’ backing singers (Michaelle and Tina) are dead ringers for the Supremes and the show opens in a seedy Reno nightclub owned by tough gangster Curtis Jackson (Gavin Cornwall), himself a Richard Roundtree’s ‘Shaft’ lookalike.
Wannabe star Deloris is rejected at her audition after singing the opening number ‘Take Me To Heaven’ while she then witnesses Curtis murder one of his side-kicks for being a ‘grass’ and she is forced to flee for her life.
Seeking refuge in the Philadephia police departmen office, she meets ‘Sweaty’ Eddie Souther (Edward Baruwa), who has had a crush on her since their school days.
Eddie suggests Deloris hides in the local convent where she meets the Mother Superior, superbly played by Coronation Street star Denise Black and Monsignor O’Hara (Michael Starke, instantly recognised as the odd-job porter from ITV’s The Royal and a former‘Corrie’ regular).
The flambouyant Deloris is quickly dressed as a nun (much against Mother Superior’s wishes) but single handed she turns the convent’s terrible off-key choir into something of a singing supergroup... and that it turn changes the hard-up church’s fortunes.
In fact the choir is so good that it ends up on the radio and also appears on television before landing an audience with the Pope!
Along the way you meet Sister Mary Robert (Julia Atherton) and the hilarious bespectacled sisters Mary Lazarus (Jacqueline Clarke) and Mary Patrick (Laurie Scarth), all three starring in their own way.
With a string of catchy numbers from ‘It’s Good To Be A Nun’, ‘Raise Your Voice’ and a reprise of ‘Take Me To Heaven’, there’s a stunning trick as Policeman Eddie sings ‘It’s Good To Be That Guy’.
Quick changes are one thing, but how Eddie switches from a full police uniform to a John Travolta-style white ‘Saturday Night Fever’ suit with pink shirt and white tie and then switches back to his Philadephia police uniform left the audience (and me in particular) totally spellbound!
There are heavenly jokes galore, a little racism added for affect, more and more great foot-tapping songs and so many nun costume changes that the wardrobe department must have spilled out into the street.
Cynthia Erivo gives a fabulous performance as Deloris while the sisters and Mother Superior are also brilliant. I particularly loved Sister Mark Robert’s ‘The Life I Never Had’ which brought the house down.
Meanwhile Curtis’ henchmen (Joey, Pablo and TJ) bring so much comedy to Sister Act and in particular their Bees Gees-like ‘Lady In The Long Black Dress’, it also brought the audience to its feet.
From the show’s fabulous sets, it’s wonderful 12-piece orchestra (under the guidance of musical director Mark Crossland) and a highly-talented cast – there’s even a late arrival of the Pope from the depths of the orchestra pit! – Sister Act really is top quality entertainment and hugely uplifting so why not consider spending an evening with the sequined, singing sisters? You certainly won’t regret it!
Sister Act is showing at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, June 30 with performances at 7.30pm each evening and additional 2.30pm matinees on both Saturdays and on Wednesday.
To book tickets call the box office on 08448 717652 or log onto www.atgtickets.com/shows/sister-act/milton-keynes-theatre/
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