Those who are familiar with the iconic 1992 movie will know that the movie is headlined by the incredible Whoopi Goldberg as the fugitive singer turned nun. As this is such a recognisable movie/character the pressure is on for anyone who not only spear heading the show by stepping into the role of the fabulous Dolores Van Cartier however Landi Oshinowo did not seem fazed in the slightest! Landi seemed to be most comfortable during the more vocally centered aspects of the role as her beautifully soulful voice suited the aspiring club singer character flawlessly. Their rendition of “Fabulous Baby” was crammed full of fabulousness and extravagance with the lead character balancing the comedic side of the song with vocal endurance wonderfully!
What worked incredibly well about this production is that Lesley Joseph, who played the stuck in her ways and head of the Covent mother Superior was an almost total contrast to the Dolores in this production. Her powerfully moving rendition of “Here Between These Walls” was not only a treat for the ears but also explored the importance of community which will be forever a very important thing! This character could be considered as the stereotypical, caricature of how you would expect a nun to act/behave. This obviously clashes with the extravagance of Dolores and caused these two characters to have an instant conflict from the moment they stepped into the church. This contrast was purposefully exaggerated in the enth degree which made the inevitable change of ways even more powerful.
The closing moments of the show sees Mother Superior come to her senses as she literally jumps in front of a bullet for the ‘thorn in her side’ and finally accepts Dolores as a certified sister. This moment was followed by the other nuns forming a human shield around Dolores hiding her from her gun wielding boyfriend which was very emotionally powerful to watch!
My favourite character by far in this musical production would have to be the clumsy yet lovable Lt. Eddie Souther (played in this production by the amazing Alfie Parker) whose sole responsibility is making sure that Dolores is safe from her murderous ex-boyfriend. However, this compassion and care for the singer doesn’t not just purely come from a place a professionalism as we discover that during their time in high school together Eddie had a crush on Dolores. This childhood bond means that Eddie has almost given up all hope of a potential relationship but there is still some hope left within the officer’s mind! My favourite sequence in the entire show came during the spectacular “I Could be That Guy” where Eddie talks about stepping up from this bumbling office to a serious crime fighter. The highlight of this song came with Eddie tore off his boring office outfit to reveal a sparkly disco-centric suit only to then tear this off to yet another plain office outfit! In the middle of this sequence dancers flooded the stage to launch into a spectacular dance routine that the audience absolutely went wild for! After all this had happened Eddie hilariously stumbled down from the table, he had scaled up to be the centre of attention (where he deserved to be) as the scene turned back to the day-to-day running’s inside a police centre which again had the audience in howls of laughter!
My personal highlight of the production was the fact that from the moment the ensemble stepped into the stage to the moment they left, every single one showcased the most outlandish and over-the-top characters I have ever seen! Raise your voice is the song where the nuns finally come together (under Delores’ supervision) and realise they can actually sing and out on a performance that isn’t a boring, old fashioned church hymn. This number builds itself in such a way that each character is allowed their own individual moment to flex their comedic muscles and shine, but it was the moments when the spotlight was not on them that really made the show for me. Whether it was facial reactions, hamming up the choreography or interacting with one another, it kept the world alive and made for a very exciting watch!
I thought that the church medley sequence was not only wonderfully staged but also exactly performed. As the nuns are performing their usual Sunday hymns (albeit of a higher quality than normal) they suddenly burst into a high energy medley of Dolores’ biggest hits! The physicalisation of each character in and out of the spotlight was amazing and meant that everywhere the audience looked there was something going on without it being too distracting from the main narrative. One of the greatest vocal performances in the number would have to be Lizzie Bea (who played the easily excitable sister Mary Roberts) during their rendition of the life I never had which was incredible. Every single audience member was instantly moved to tears as the character talked about missing out on the more rebellious moments in life due to be confined in the church. Even though I have never personality taking a vow of service, we all still have regrets that we wish we took and so seeing a character talk openly about these was very powerful to watch!
At an almost antithesis to the nuns, Dolores’ criminal ex-partner Curtis (played wonderfully by the talented Ian Gareth-Jones) and his gang of incompetent sidekicks. What is somewhat strange about these roles is that despite being a criminal gang, the majority of the numbers contain a massive amount of comedy which had the audience laughing alongside them. Their performance “when I find my baby” simultaneously talked about how Curtis is going to beat/kill/attack etc. Dolores when he finds her but also utilised a very love-struck musical motif. The intense violence and adoration contrasted beautifully and had the audience laughing as the number progressed! Throughout all of their performance the gang maintained the most over-the-top, cheesy grins known to man which again added the unusual comedy undertones of the role. Due to the criminals and nuns being so diametrically opposed, you knew that when they finally come through something spectacular would happen and that’s exactly what went down! The scene of criminals trying to intimidate and threaten the nuns obviously go as planned but the number was choreographed in such a perfect way! The nuns were able to overcome the invaders with very little physical force through a sequence of slapstick-esque rope moments so when Curtis entered armed with a gun the entire mood flipped upside down! This sudden and drastic change of mood only served to amplify the emotional moment preceding moments of the human shield!
Overall Sister Act the musical managed to capture the majority of the magic from the movie with a few minor tweaks for stage purposes. It was crammed full of hilarious comedy moments with numerous powerful and moving vocal performances. I do have to say that one of my least favourite scenes involved Dolores riding a bicycle taxi while being perused by the struggling criminals as it did look somewhat strange until the closing moments when two of the villains began rolling down the stage to show the bicycle was moving forward!
I would rate this production 4 out of 5 stars!