It’s been a while since I wrote a theatre review hasn’t it? This week, I went with my mum, dad and our tag-along, Miss Mess to watch the Sister Act musical UK tour at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham.
It’s also been a while since I went to see a show that I wasn’t particularly expecting to enjoy. Still, I tried to keep an open mind about Sister Act until after I’d seen it. After all, I have been proven wrong and been pleasantly surprised before. (Looking at you, Full Monty!)
Before going to watch Sister Act, I knew almost nothing about it, another rare occurance. I knew it featured original music (a point of concern for me) but I hadn’t listened to the soundtrack and didn’t know a single song. This was going to be an interesting experience.
The first disappointment of the evening came before the show had even started. Posted around the theatre were signs informing us that the “star attraction”, Alexandra Burke would not be appearing in the show due to illness. My mum was suitably gutted – she does like to see her stars.
No offence intended to Ms Burke, but it soon became clear that we weren’t going to feel hard done to. From her very first note, Joanna Francis, our “Dolores Van Cartier” for the evening was heavenly. She had a voice to die for, had great comic timing and also gave beautifully emotional moments when they were called for. Her expressions and body language had me in stitches. She was an utter joy to watch and even though she was in almost every scene I could have still had more.
Karen Mann played the strait-laced Mother Superior. She was fabulously dramatic while still managing to create comedy moments when they were called for. Her song “I haven’t got a prayer” was one of my particular favoruites and her performance during it was first class.
The villain of the piece was Curtis, played by Aaron Lee Lambert. He was suave and smooth, showing the charm that would appeal to Dolores while occasionally revealing a thinly-veiled menance. By the end of the show there was definitely a hint of panto-villain about him and I know we were all very happy to see him get his comeuppance.
Jon Robyns played Eddie, the cop responsible to keeping Dolores safe. The role had been built up from what I remember in the film, which I’m not entirely sure was necessary, but I enjoyed his performance as the low-key hero. He provided a great contrast to Dolores’ previous life, demonstrating the importance of substance over flashy style.
Curtis’ three henchman, as played by Ricky Rojas, Samuel Morgan-Grahame and Sandy Grigelis were simply hilarious. The perfect comedy act. Their song about seducing the nuns was vulgar and brilliant – it made me very glad Freya is too young to get a lot of the references. Each of the actors gave a unique performance, making their character really stand out.
One of my favourite aspects of the show was the characterisation of the nuns. Each nun had their own personal style making them easy to identify even though they were all wearing matching outfits. The role of Mary Patrick was played by Susannah Van Der Berg. She was bright, bubbly with contagious energy. Sister Mary Roberts, as played by Sarah Goggin was subdued and meek until her big breakout number towards the end. She really knew how to light up the stage when she needed to. Liz Kitchen was perfect as Mary Lazarus. Her performance was so similar to the film, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same actress. (It wasn’t, was it?)
One thing that was particularly successful was the bad singing of the nuns – it was REALLY bad. As someone who sings myself, I know how hard to can be to deliberately sing off key. It goes against everything you’ve learnt and worked at. The ladies handled it brilliantly , with discordant clashing harmonies and shrill, almost painful voices. It was somewhat of a relief when Dolores worked her magic, which is exactly as it should be.
While we’re on the subject of the performers, when did being a triple threat become not enough? Suddenly, not only are you expected to sing, dance and act but you also have to be able to play an instrument? Are you kidding me? Watching a group of nuns strut around the stage with saxophones and guitars, I was BLOWN AWAY by the sheer amount of talent in front of me. In a million years, I could never aspire to be that awesome.
It turns out I needn’t have worried about the original music. The songs were lively and fun. It didn’t take me long before my toes were tapping and I was humming along. There were some great stand out numbers, including “Fabulous, Baby!”. Needless to say, it didn’t take much for Miss Mess to convince me to buy the cast recording. (Quick note to production companies – if you’re going to sell a CD after one performance, please ensure it has the actual songs on. There’s nothing quite so frustrating as loving a song from the show and it NOT being on the CD you just spent £15 on!)
If I’m honest, in spite of all of the fabulous performances and catchy tunes, I remained unconvinced on the show as a whole until the very end of the first act. I felt it was a little slow to get in to the action and there was a bit too much time spent on minor characetrs, rather than moving on the plot. (I suppose they did have to kill time somehow, but I paid for singing nuns, damnit – show me the singing nuns!)
Finally, finally, we were given the song “Raise Your Voice” where Dolores starts training up the choir. That sequence was probably my favourite of the whole show and it really felt like it took off from there. From that point on, and through the whole second act, it was relentlessly up-tempo and thrilling.
The show was directed by Craig Revel Horwood (Yes, from Strictly) and while I find it very hard to explain why a show was directed well, I do want to try. There was just something snappy and witty about the direction that I really enjoyed.
Overall, I absolutely loved the show and would certainly recommend it to musical theatre lovers, as well as lovers of the original film. It was exhilarating and enthralling. I loved every second and by the end we wanted to get up and dance.
As I mentioned previously, we took Miss Mess and although there were a few themes that were a little adult, I certainly don’t think there was anything too inappropriate. Any references to sex, drugs and violence probably went straight over her head. She did love the glitz and glamour though and found the comedy moments very entertaining.
Unfortunately, the Sister Act UK tour has now left Nottingham (sorry for the late review) but they are still touring around the UK during 2017. You can find all of the details of upcoming destinations on their official website.