Sister Act

Date 10th March 2018
Society Sounds Musical Theatre Company
Venue The Devonport Playhouse, Plymouth
Type of Production Musical
Director Amanda Paddison
Musical Director Marcus Alleyne
Choreographer Amanda Paddison

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Author: Gareth Davies

I love this musical! ‘Sister Act’ is based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film comedy of the same name. It tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, an aspiring disco diva in the 1970s. After witnessing her gangster boyfriend, Curtis, commit a murder she is put into protective custody in a convent, which is facing closure. Finding this new ‘lifestyle’ difficult, she eventually joins the convent choir and finds friendships and sisterhood that she has never known before.

I remember first seeing ‘Sister Act’ (on a very wet summer’s afternoon) at the London Palladium when it opened with Sheila Hancock and Ian Lavender starring. First impressions of that production were that the opening sequence was slow and that was again apparent in this production. For me, this brilliant musical jumps into life when Delores joins the convent. Deloris is, of course, the lynchpin of the show, rarely off stage and was played very strongly by Cairo McFarlane. From her first appearance, she gave a first class performance. She was sexy and seductive in the opening scenes and coped beautifully with the complexities of the character. Both her singing and acting skills were superb and together with her excellent comic timing, this was a terrific portrayal.

I loved the interpretation of Mother Superior by Diane Hooper. She had just the right amount of idealistic authority but became completely exasperated by the situation and her singing of the beautiful ‘I haven’t got a prayer’ was delivered with sensitivity, a very classy performance. Joanne Studs was great as the somewhat surly Sister Mary Lazarus and her transformation into a ‘rapper’ was hilarious. Sheilagh Francis excelled as the excitable and over enthusiastic Sister Mary Patrick, while Jasmine Smith captured the innocence, curiosity, courage and sweetness of Sister Mary Robert to perfection. The nuns were brilliant throughout.

Leigh Jarman as Curtis was the villain of the piece, with his three sidekicks Barrie Lewis (TJ), Tom Harwood (Joey) and David Parish (Pablo) who were funny, especially in the song and dance routine, ‘Lady in the Long Black Dress’.

Stacey Goff sympathetically played Eddie, the police officer in love with Deloris, and his quick costume changes during ‘I Could be That Guy’ were splendidly achieved. Edward Gigg brought a rather mischievous touch to the role of Monsignor O’Hara – it was great to see Edward on stage again - and great support came from Jo Katz as Tina, Kate Stables as Michelle, Annie Worth as Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours and Denise Avent as Sister Mary Theresa. After the initial deliberately painful singing by the Nuns they definitely improved and were then in very fine voice throughout. The ensemble gave their all in the various roles they played.

This is a show with fourteen scenes in Act 1 and eleven in Act 2 which is an immense challenge when you have such a challenging stage but the extremely innovative and creative set designed, constructed and painted by Andy Martin coped with this admirably and was enhanced by excellent lighting and appropriate props.

Denise Avent and Nicky Staddon expertly managed the costumes by Triple C Costume Hire. Everyone embracing the 1970s fashion must have had lots of fun!

Musical direction by Marcus Alleyne was excellent throughout, conducting a brilliant band. This is a demanding show musically, for the singers and band, but this was a very strong musical performance in most aspects.

Direction by Amanda Paddison was generally fluid and the space was used with imagination. Sometimes I felt scene transitions could have been faster paced and too many songs were planted DSC for my liking. The finale felt a little awkwardly staged in places – chase and fight scenes are always tricky – but there were moments in the final sequence which needed reworking to sustain the believability of the piece.

This was a show full of fun, and played with such enthusiasm, vitality and exuberance, especially in the big numbers, which were well choreographed and executed. I enjoyed every minute and for much of the two hours I was ‘taken to Heaven’!

To everyone involved, well done and thank you. This was the best production I have seen from Sounds Musical Theatre Company in recent years.