Glory to the risen…queen?
Sister Act finally comes to our shores at Mastercard Theatres! Inspired by the 1992 movie of the same name starring Whoopi Goldberg, this international production boasts a production team that’s worked on Broadway/West End versions of the musical, and a stellar cast as well!
Set in 1978, outspoken lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier (Dene Hill) witnesses a murder by soon to be ex-boyfriend and club owner Curtis Jackson (Brandon Godfrey), and goes on the run when he threatens to kill her too. Seeking protection from the police, the cops decide to hide her undercover…in a conservative nunnery! Deloris isn’t having any of this. and is determined to let her spirit run free even when clad in the nuns’ ‘penguin dresses’.
Sister Act the musical is as delightful as its movie inspiration is, preaching values of love, solidarity and the sheer joy and therapeutic effects of music. It’s no wonder that it works so well as a musical. Klara Zieglerova’s scenic design gives the Queen of Angels church the grandeur and religious atmosphere it needs to ooze Catholic reverence, complete with stained glass windows and huge, towering ceilings, and Lez Brotherston’s costumes transport viewers back to the seventies, with bell bottom pants and tasseled handbags at the ready.
Like a fish out of water, Deloris takes on the new name of Sister Mary Clarence, but just can’t hide her soul. The Mother Superior (Rebecca Mason-Wygal) takes an instant dislike to her, and after witnessing the haphazard and cacophonous nuns sing, decides to punish Deloris by tasking her to lead them in song. Deloris, being the sassy singer she is, takes things in her stride and teaches them how to properly praise the lord. In the standout song of the musical, Dene Hill launches into ‘Raise Your Voice’, an energetic, uptempo number that let the various sisters come into their own as they reach a soaring harmony and achieved the climax of the first act. Despite battling technical difficulties, Hill still managed to excel and push past the problems with her strong voice and made it work in ‘Raise Your Voice’, and in a manner of speaking, managed to get back in the habit!
Will T Travis, who plays ‘Sweaty’ Eddie, a policeman with a history with Deloris, was undoubtedly the standout performer of the night. His song ‘I Could Be That Guy’ in Act 1 oozed with confidence and emotion, with good control of his voice. Travis also pulled off an amazing costume change during the number, smoothly changing from his drab policeman outfit to a snazzy, fancy suit and back again in a matter of seconds, and his performance really kicked the entire musical into full swing.
Brandon Godfrey as antagonist Curtis also brought an air of menace and comedy with his motley crew of gangsters: TJ (Jared Bedgood), Pablo (Moses Bernal) and Ernie (Zach Sutton). Their performance of ‘When I Find My Baby’ sounded like a number straight out of a Bee Gees setlist, but its soulful tune was betrayed by its violent lyrical content, provoking nervous laughter as they sang about killing Deloris when they found her. The four had great onstage chemistry, and each played a stereotypical character in the group, from the ‘idiot’ to the ‘wiseguy’ type character, making for some great comedic moments.
As a whole, Sister Act works best as an ensemble heavy piece, with the standout numbers all coming from the group songs. Within the church choir group, Sophie Kim as Sister Mary Robert started out meek and unsure of herself, but revealed one of the most powerful voices onstage in “The Life I Never Led” to great applause. The other sisters, Mary Patrick (Emma Brock), Mary Lazarus (Nancy Evans) and Mary Martin-of-Tours (Paige McNamara) brought home the comedy, along with Kevin D O’Neil as Monsignor O’Hara. Alan Menken, famed for composing for Disney films, has a catchy score that works well to bring Sister Act’s uplifting mood to life, and the ensemble expertly pulls them off, with audiences finding themselves tapping along to the beat.
To Psalm it all up, Sister Act is a feelgood musical that makes a joyful noise onstage and will have you jumping in glee by the end of the show. Stay tuned for the rousing, shimmering, glittery ending; you won’t be able to take your eyes off for a second. If these are the kinds of songs they sing at Sunday Service, then sign me right up for the next one!