Directed by Bill Buckhurst
Nottingham Theatre Royal – Touring
Monday 8th – Saturday 13th May
Full disclosure, when I asked my other half if he wanted to see Sister Act with me, his response was lukewarm at best. He remembered and had enjoyed the Whoopi Goldberg film and questioned whether a musical version was warranted. Well, I am pleased to announce that my very own ‘Doubting Thomas’ is now a fully-fledged convert. He absolutely loves this heavenly delight.
Deloris Van Cartier (Sandra Marvin) is a nightclub singer, dreaming of the big time and all that will entail. Sadly, she has taken up with a local gangster, Curtis Jackson (Mark Goldthorp) who keeps her on the backfoot, whilst engaging in his criminal activities. Her life takes an unexpected detour when Deloris witnesses him shoot a man dead and she is forced to go on the run.
Back into her life comes ‘Steady Eddie’ (Clive Rowe), the police officer charged with finding her sanctuary in protective custody. He promptly hides her in a place where no one will think to look – a convent. Let’s just say that the Mother Superior (Lesley Joseph) is not best pleased. Neither is Deloris. It is only when she begins to work with the convent choir that Deloris learns the true power of sisterhood and discovers her own unique voice and calling.
Perhaps best known for playing ‘Dorien Green’ in the highly successful sitcom Birds of a Feather, Lesley Joseph is an absolute revelation. Her diction is exquisite, and she imbues her character with both grace and comedic heft. She may be diminutive, but she packs a powerful punch. If ever there were a lesson in the dangers of pigeon-holing actors, then this is it. She transcends Dorien to become a wholly believable, warm, and engaging Mother Superior. I consider myself ‘wowed.’
Furthermore, there isn’t a single weak link in the cast. The nuns each fully ‘in-habit’ (pardon the pun) their characters with idiosyncrasies of speech and movement that make them individuals, not just faceless members of a collective. Lizzie Bea (Sister Mary Robert) hits the big notes with aplomb, whilst Catherine Millsom (Sister Mary Patrick) has a smile more infectious than chickenpox. She’ll have you grinning from ear to ear.
Special mention also to Bradley Judge (TJ), Tom Hopcroft (Joey) and Damian Buhagiar (Pablo) as the best ‘boyband’ that has never been. Meticulous choreography by Alistair David elevates these ‘Backstreet Boys’ so that tears of laughter are rolling down my face as they perform ‘When I Find My Baby’ with Curtis.
Likewise, if you see a sweeter, more wholesome performance this year than that of Clive Rowe as Steady Eddie Souther, I will get myself to a nunnery. His singing voice is like stepping back to the heyday of Motown. It is deeper than any ocean and washes over you like a sweet summer day.
It is such a treat to be transported back to 1970’s Philadelphia. The costume design by Morgan Large includes Cuban heels, winged collars, bell bottoms and medallions is a visual cornucopia. The cast is ‘dressed to the ninety-nines.’ At times, there are more sequins and rhinestones than Strictly and the technicolour ending puts Joseph and his Dreamcoat firmly in the shade. Big hand to the live orchestra too, who are note-perfect.
This is a tale that celebrates the power of community, faith in one another, and love in all its forms. It’s the perfect antidote to a post-Covid world, a shot in the arm for theatre, and a winning formula that will delight audiences near and far. Sister Act may well be the best ‘fever dream’ you ever experience in a theatre.
Running time – Act 1: 1 hour and 10 minutes, Interval 20 minutes, Act 2: 1 hour.
Age Guidance: 10+