Sister Act

Date 25th May 2019
Society Richmond Operatic Society
Venue Richmond Georgian Theatre Royal
Type of Production Musical
Director /Choreographer Jordan Hamilton
Musical Director John Hunter
Musical Associate Jane Hunter
Vocal Coach Richard Hamilton-Leighton

Report

Author: Peter Oliver

Every now and again you review a show that could that could easily equal a professional west end performance and Richmond Operatic Societies production of Sister Act, the musical interpretation of the 1992 film of the same name certainly came close and left the audience in no doubt why this show is so popular, and rewarding the cast with a thoroughly deserving standing ovation. This show is an absolute dream for any society to perform with its excellent musical score and story line, it follows the musical adaptation of the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film of the same name and tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier an aspiring disco diva who witnesses her gangster boyfriend Curtis commit a murder and under police protection is held in safety in a convent, at first this new environment is not what Deloris expected but soon finds that after been asked to work with the choir it brings her friendship and a sisterhood that she had never known.

Firstly may I take this opportunity of thanking the President Sheila Russell and the front of house team for the kind hospitality, in welcoming both my wife and myself into your beautiful Georgian Theatre, I have falling in love with its splender and ambiance. The production of this show was in the capable hands of Jordan Hamilton in his directional debut for Richmond Operatic Society and what a fantastic production he delivered which was appreciated to its sell out audience each performance. I had the opportunity to speak to Jordon both prior and in the interval and his enthusiasm and commitment was overwhelming as he spoke with pure pride in his achievement and that of his production team and cast; which he used to all their strengths. The whole cast without any doubt were really strong, good stage craft and collectively they brought Jordon’s vision to reality and delivered a fantastic performance with beautiful vocals and some well polished choreographed routines. Having performed in this show with my own society I know the amount of work that must have gone into this production. It was clearly obvious that Jordon was supported by a fantastic production team; the lighting plot by Tony Wilcock was amazing and provided the right atmosphere during many of the musical numbers; I particularly liked the scene with the Nuns behind the gauze with the stain glass windows as the backdrop it looked amazing. The set design looked exceptional thanks to Gary Winn and Ebony Johnson-Dodds as were the prop design by Charles Lambert which enhanced and added to the production. Congratulations to the stage crew headed by Beverly Owens and Alex Caffery with the support from the backstage crew they ensured that the production ran like clockwork and managed the professional set up superbly. This show is very heavy on costumes and it was the talent of Christine Hill assisted by Anita Wilkinson and Rhoda Fraser who designed and hand made all the costumes, they looked not only professional but took the production for me to another level adding to the overall ambiance of the production. The band was under the leadership of the musical Director John Hunter and what a superlative musicianship with his musical associate Jane Hunter and his fantastic band consisting of Peter New, Adam Bradley and Nick Ibbotson, the balance of the sound was fantastic never overshadowing the cast and I know the amount of additional work that John had put in to make the harmonise sound so fantastic and they certainly did. Special mention must also go to vocal coach Richard Hamilton for his work with the cast it certainly paid off every musical number sounded beautiful and the harmonies were exceptional.

This musical depends on having a strong lead in the principal role of Deloris Van Cartier was Gracie Will who delivered a confident and powerful performance, she portrayed the character perfectly and her musical numbers were beautifully delivered especially “Sister Act”, “Fabulous Baby” and “Raise Your Voice” with the Nuns. Supporting Deloris as her backing singers were Amy Clarkson as Michelle and Tori Bennett as Tina great performances with some lovely choreography and I loved their musical opening numbers “Take Me To Heaven” and “Fabulous Baby” great start and fabulous costumes. Playing the role of Mother Superior was Gail Barlow who for me delivered a stand out performance; she delivered her role with strength of character and realness’ befitting of her character and her musical numbers “Here Within These Wall” and “I Haven’t Got A Prayer” were outstanding and very emotional worthy of any West End performance. There was a great partnership between Mother Superior and Monsignor O’Hara played by Gary Winn who delivered his character fantastically I loved his accent and his rapping in his number “Sunday Morning Fever” with Deloris and the Nuns; great characterisation and performance.

The large ensemble of Nuns put their heart and souls into their performances, especially those in principal roles; Natasha Wood as Sister Mary Roberts who delivered a convincing performance as the young naive postulant; great performance and her musical number “The Life I Never Led” was simply stunning. Jo Wilkinson excelled as the boisterous; bubbly Mary Patrick great stage presence and interaction with her fellow sisters. Julie Winn was superb as the rapping Nun Sister Mary Lazarus; I love this character well delivered and an outstanding performance she certainly brought the house down on my visit. Helen Cain was wonderful as Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours whose character was in a world of her own most of the time but with some special moments of clarity it was then Helen was able to bring out the character, great performance. And finally Sister Mary Theresa played by Edith Hunt, who brought this character to life; beautifully performed and complemented her fellow Sisters. Congratulation to the Sister Hood of nuns on their big numbers I loved “Take Me To Heaven”, “Spread The Love” and “Raise Your Voice” they were well delivered with lovely harmonies and outstanding performances.

Playing the gangsters was John Holliday as the night club owner and leader of the gang; very strong portrayal of the character exceptional performance he maintained his villainess throughout the performance, excellent delivery of his musical number “When I find My Baby” with his gang of hoodlums. I loved the way Jordon directed the characters of Curtis’s hoodlums played by Alex Bennett as his nephew TJ an outstanding performance excellent stage presence and extremely funny I loved his interpretation of his character, Charles Lambert as Joey again a fine performance well presented and excellent interacting with the other gangsters and finally Pablo played by Richard Hamilton who delivered a convincing performance I was convinced that he spoke Spanish he sounded so good; excellent confident performance and lovely vocals in their musical number “ “Lady In The Long Black Dress”  which was outstanding fantastic choreographed routine and the audience love it. Playing the fourth gangster was Ross Hutchinson as Ernie who unfortunately was killed in the first act by Cutis whilst a cameo role Ross delivered a solid and realistic performance. And finally in the role of Eddie Souther better known as sweaty Eddie the desk chief, brilliantly played by Brody Laundon he delivered a first class performance; excellent interaction with Deloris and the cast. I loved his musical number with the down and outs “I Could Be That Guy” which was delivered with confidence beautiful number and vocals and the clothing transformation was well executed and staged great choreography and I loved the disco movements.Well done also to the ensemble Rhoda Fraser who also played the cameo of the newscaster, Jean Robinson, Sophie Montgomery, Suanne Harding and Caitlin Smith without you the show would not have been such a triumph.

Congratulations to Richmond Operatic Society who sang and dances their way through this superb production with energy and enthusiasm it must have left them exhausted it certainly did the audience, the final musical number “Raise Your Voice” could only be described as a stunning success of musical theatre which deservedly resulted in a standing ovation. Well Done