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Sister Act

Date

17th November 2017

Society

New Mills Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society

Venue

New Mills Arts Theatre

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Rob Brittles

Musical Director

Adam Hutchins

Choreographer

Carolyn Dent

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor

HALLELUJAH! The sassy and funky ‘Sister Act’ spread the fabulous and certainly worked in drawing in the crowds to The New Mills Arts Theatre!

Following suit from the hit 90’s film of the same name starring Whoopie Goldberg & Maggie Smith, the central character (Deloris Van Cartier, a disco and soul lounge singer) is placed in a convent as part of a witness protection programme after seeing a murder committed by her gangster boyfriend.

The effervesce of Maria Dunford as Deloris hits the mark in a soul diva role which gives her the lion's share of the shows main numbers - "Take Me To Heaven", "Fabulous, Baby!", "Bless Our Show" and "Sister Act" which were delivered with a gutsy and sumptuous quality by Maria. Whilst the ensemble work in "Raise Your Voice" and the cleverly titled "Sunday Morning Fever" was playful and celebrated it missed the full prominence it needed due to the lack of amplification (microphones) amongst the ensemble. Despite this, the swingin’ singin’ sisters are a hit with the crowd, we were treated to some zany and comical characters amongst the joyous throng which made up a fine and entertaining troupe.

Harlie Farmer's Sister Mary Robert shines in "The Life I Never Led", a song which wouldn't seem out of place in one of Menken's Disney scores, it was refreshing to see character choices take the forefront of the delivery during this number.  

Becky Towner Yates as Mother Superior delivers a poignant "Here Within These Walls" and demonstrated a dry wit that was just scratching the surface.

The beauty that is the New Mills Arts Theatre is utilised to good effect for the most part, the ensemble numbers were complete, fun and entertaining. Some of the scene changes took a little longer than I’d have liked but my main criticism has to be the use of the boxes in the auditorium to portray some of the scenes which proffered several hinderances. Playing scenes in the boxes works quite nicely and can be quite effective if they’re short and don’t feature more than one actor as sightlines were a bit of an issue and one more obvious factor is how space is drastically restricted appearing a little awkward for the actors in scenes that’re too long for such a cramped space.  

This production was an early 7:15pm start yet was tiptoeing up to 10:20pm by the time the cast took their final bow which is quite a lengthy running time for a two act musical.  During the interval I asked why the show started at this rather unusual time to which I was told “because no show should come down past 10pm” I must say that I don’t disagree with this, however, many shows manage it and still start at the more recognised time of 7:30pm and I have never previously seen a production of ‘Sister Act’ overrun to this degree.

With remarkable wordplay, the score is faultless and diverse. Musical Director, Adam Hutchins had delivered a worthy performance with what he’d been given. A show like this relies very heavily on the sound it creates and although the music from the able musicians was first-rate and provided the required funk and kick, we needed more amplification from the vocals to balance the sound as much of the ensemble singing and their harmonies were drowned out during the many vast numbers in this score.

Gangster sidekick Joey, played by Connor Wyse deservingly earned the audiences’ affection with his endearing, haphazard capers and showcased some nifty moves and drew our focus, in a complementary way, during his time on stage.  

The lighting design was attractive and appropriate for the piece and the charmingly simple inhouse built set certainly did the job. One of the most engaging moments of the production was the chase sequence in act II which was comical and impeccably executed, a job well done here.    

Some of the accents, one in particular, were certainly questionable offering an extra (if slightly inadvertent) layer to the humour so much so it detracted the intended focus of the scenes. In some cases it would have been improved to use a generic American one instead of trying to imitate an accent beyond their capabilities and although it may not have been accurate to the character it would’ve offered a stronger, more suitable result.   

Despite a few gripes mentioned above – It can’t be denied that overall this 70s disco musical is not quite ‘feel-good’ – it’s ‘feel-fabulous’, it was a sure-fire crowd pleaser and didn’t fail to have the audience on their feet for the finale!

Congratulations to everyone at ‘New Mills’, a strong sense of a revamped committee was in evidence and this was a ‘wake up’ production that the society should be immensely proud of in a corner stone reshaping for the promising future of ‘New Mills AODS’.