SISTER ACT AT REGENT THEATRE, HANLEY REVIEW
When I heard that Sister Act would be on at the Regent Theatre this week, with no less than X-Factor 2008 WINNER Alexandra Burke playing the lead role, I knew I had to get a ticket!
I am actually ashamed to say that I have never seen the Sister Act (1991) film all the way through… But by all accounts, Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith were always going to be a tough pair to follow after their portrayals of Deloris Van Cartier and Mother Superior. I am pleased to say, I was completely blown away by the casting choices, and my partner who attended with me (and is somewhat of a Sister Act aficionado) said that both Burke and Karen Mann played their parts to perfection.
The story of Sister Act follows the life of Deloris, a would-be club singer in 1970’s Philadelphia. Her boyfriend, married club owner Curtis (Aaron Lee Lambert) is somewhat of a crook to say the least, and when she spots him committing a pretty awful crime (no spoilers here!) she is rushed into hiding by her long-lost-high-school-friend-turned-police-officer ‘Sweaty’ Eddie (Joe Vetch). As a smoker, a singer and a ‘negro’ she sticks out like a sore thumb in church, and although the Mother Superior (Karen Mann) is in on the secret, the other nuns are suspicious. After a hilarious scene where the oldest of the sisters gets very drunk on tequila shots, the Mother Superior gives Deloris one last chance to maintain her safe spot in hiding, and entrusts her to manage the church choir… who are TERRIBLE. As the story develops, the choir improves and Deloris begins to build some lifelong friendships, and there is even a sweet little love story thrown in there for good measure.
Directed by Craig Revel Horwood, the choreography is as phenomenal as expected. The costumes are beautiful, the acting top notch and the songs have got that belting-in-a-gospel-choir get-up-and-dance vibe to them. But surprisingly, my favourite things about this show were 1) The set design which had some pretty effective ornate cathedral-style window silhouettes… and two INCREDIBLE disco balls and 2) The fact that the entire support cast were playing their instruments, live, on stage throughout the whole performance. Honestly, I have never seen anything like it, and knowing that you are watching someone who can sing, dance, act AND play the violin and flute, is pretty inspirational. It was a feature which I have never seen in any other show, and the acoustics of the Regent Theatre only helped to enhance the beautiful quality of sound coming directly from the stage.
Aside from a little hiccup where a mic cut out, a slightly disappointing resolution in the plot which just felt like it could have been acted up a little more, and a little over-acting in the first half (back-seat actor that I am… deep down I know these minor slip-ups are nun of my business… do you see what I did there?), the show was fantastic. We left humming along to songs such as ‘Take Me to Heaven’ and ‘Raise Your Voice’ and even this morning I can’t get them out of my head! I will say though, some of the gentler numbers have really stayed with me such as the hilarious performance of ‘Lady in the Long Black Dress’ to the heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Sister Act’.
Finally I must of course give a mention to Alice Stokoe who has been covering the role of Sister Mary Robert since April 29th. What an incredible voice! She very nearly upstaged the vocal power-house that is Alexandra Burke, and I was covered in goosebumps from the moment she hit her first big note.
Sister Act was a brilliant way to spend a Monday evening. Absolutely recommend.