Sister Act

Date 27th April 2022
Society The East Cheshire Musical Theatre Company
Venue Forum Theatre, Romiley
Type of Production Musical
Director Thom Copestake
Musical Director Ed Nurse
Choreographer Sally Hilliard & Heidi Fletcher

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor

East Cheshire Musical Theatre Company return to the Romiley Forum for their first production post pandemic (assuming it’s officially safe to refer to COVID as being in the past now! …touch wood!) and a great choice of show they brought for us: the feel good, spirit lifting, divine treat that is ‘Sister Act’. This title is - I still consider it to be anyway - still relatively new to the amateur scene yet it’s already a tried and tested formula proving incredibly popular with audiences and society members alike... something that’s not always easy to find nor should it be taken for granted when selecting which show to do!

One element that’s rare to see emerge so powerfully beyond the footlights, and it packed a punch in this rendition, is what’s been instilled into it from the show’s director! This production certainly grabbed this company by the scruff of the neck and gave a healthy dose of oomph, new blood in the director’s chair in the form of Thom Copestake who clearly brought a new lease of life with a virtuous spice and freshness to the table. It seems, from out front, that Thom had slotted in with his new surroundings perfectly and I can only imagine a harmonious working relationship with the regular ECMTC choreographers and Musical Director. It’s not been uncommon to see throughout the district how a new freshness has come out of the forced halt to activities, giving us (myself included) the opportunity to miss doing what we love, reminding us why we did it in the first place and then come back to it with a new energy and vitality for our marvellous hobby! The silver lining of the grim episode?

 

The band, positioned in front of the stage, sounded wonderful and really got our toes tapping along and feeling the groove which is so imperative for this show! The tempos were perfect - it’s fashionable at the minute to ‘go slow’ and it’s driving me crazy but thankfully there was no sign of that from Ed Nurse and his musos! One comment I can’t swerve though, I know the ECMTC band are used to being ‘hidden away’, it’s worth remembering that we could see you so probably wasn’t wise to be poking fun at what’s happening on stage, checking your phones and interacting with people you know on the front row… it’s disrespectful and distracting for folk on and off stage and for your fellow pit pals too. A side note to the society officials: you’re in control of this as their employer so you’re well within your right to set the rules as their conduct (or lack of) reflects negatively on you.

 

Choreography by Heidi Fletcher and Sally Hilliard was in keeping with the feel of the show, step digs / clicks galore and rightly so! Incorporating the restriction of the robes didn’t go unnoticed either. Grand job.

 

The drive of the show is undeniably Karina Tomlinson’s character, Deloris (The Whoopie role), she was certainly loaded with feist and force. She showcased strong vocally and the character shone for the most part and landed a lot of the humour with the desired hit, though the edge was perhaps a little fuzzy and yes, this is me being incredibly picky, something which I feel is warranted for such a mammoth part! The heartfelt, softer and genuine traits to the role which we see in the latter scenes gave a much stronger impact, she was easy to like!

 

Tina Spiers gave us her Mother Superior. Tina delivered her songs excellently, she’s evidently comfortable giving us a tune, I could almost sense her relax when it was time to sing.  I do believe that some adjusting of her character needed a little attention such as knowing when to be sincere and when to be sarcastic got a little muddled, but as I said about Karina, I’m being picky because I feel you can take it and deserve an honest evaluation.

 

It’s far from uncommon for societies to strain somewhat with the pickings of having men to fill roles and we got a mixed bag from the principal gentlemen in this cast, some of the singing was considerably out of reach coupled with some questionable character choices. Ash Mallen is certainly having a busy year and was by far the most potent performer of the gangster troupe as Pablo.   

 

The nun ensemble are a mélange of eccentric individuals with elevated one liners and cameo stints, these were relished to the max with Alexandra Severn coming out on top as Sister Mary Lazarus. The female ensemble offer the lions share of the chorus vocals and these full company numbers were undoubtedly what made this show zing! Really terrific!

 

The scenery chosen to hire (from Scenery Solutions) was quite possibly the wisest choice for this venue, unless you’re in a full professional theatre with the luxury to fly things in with copious wing space – which, let’s face it is it an incredibly rare luxury in this game, something – more often than not - has to be compensated but here, all set choices felt deliberate and as intended furthermore, all transitions between scenes were smooth, which is another accolade to the director for this vision and evident instruction to keep the show moving, the direction had been worked to ensure smooth and rapid changeovers.

 

Great choice of show with a mighty execution (yes, a few minor gripes pinpointed above – there’s always a couple, in ANY show be it pro or otherwise!) but this was a fighting return post pandemic! Exciting times indeed! Not only did you ‘raise your voice’, you raised your game…and no one can ask for more than that! Congratulations one and all!