Theatre Review: Sister Act @ Nottingham Playhouse

Last night, the girls and I were lucky enough to be invited to see Spotlight Theatre Company’s production of Sister Act at the Nottingham Playhouse. I had previously been asked to help out at the auditions for this show and so I was very interested to see how the cast had developed during the rehearsal process.

After seeing Spotlight’s production of Legally Blonde last year, I was expecting great things.

Sister Act – The Musical is (obviously) based on the 1992 film of the same name. It tells the story of Delores Van Cartier, a nightclub singer who has to hide from her gangster boyfriend by pretending to be a nun in a convent.

Directed by Matthew Wesson and produced by Amanda Hall with Musical Direction from Geoff Burnhill and Choreography from Sophie Petruchio-Hall, Spotlight’s Sister Act is an glittering, inspiring spectacle, bursting with hilarious comedy as well as packing an emotional punch

The role of disco diva, Delores Van Cartier is played here by Grace Hodgett-Young. I wracked my brains and couldn’t think of any words to describe Grace’s performance so I have shamelessly stolen words from one of her many show-stopping numbers – she was simply too divine.

Grace’s Delores was sassy with a sparkling wit but she was just as strong in the quieter, more emotional moments. And that voice! If I could sing like that, I would NEVER stop singing. With a role like Delores Van Cartier. it is easy to make comparisons with the original (Hi Whoopi!) but Grace managed to make the character 100% her own and was a joy to watch.

Lizzie Fenner was equally as impressive as the formidable Mother Superior. Her dry comedy and sardonic glances were a definite highlight of the show for me and her two solo numbers perfectly showcased her stunning vocals.

Poppy is a long term fan of Lizzie’s after stalking    , seeing her many times in the Nottingham Arts pantomime as the Enchantress. I’m certain her favourite part of the evening was getting to say hello to Lizzie after the show, although she informs me she isn’t Lizzie’s No 1 fan, they are best friends…. Not sure if Lizzie knows that!

Stan Cook was charming as Delores’ adorable protector and romantic interest, Officer Eddie. His natural charisma shone through in his solo number and it was lovely to watch his character’s confidence grow throughout the show.

Adam Collishaw was clearly having a lot of fun as the villain of the piece, Curtis, Delores’ ganster ex-boyfriend. He was moody and menacing in all the right places as well as showing some great comedic timing.

His gang of incompetent but hilarious thugs were played brilliantly by Ray McLeod (TJ), Liam Petruchio-Hall (Joey) and Patrick McChrystal (Pablo). This terrific trio provided some of the greatest comedy moments in the show, and their seductive but silly”Barry White”-style song “Lady in the Long Black Dress” nearly brought the house down!

Mike Pearson had a great cameo as Monsignor O’Hara, popping up from time to time with some fantastic moments. You were never sure what he’d do next.

It has to be said, however, that the stars of the show are without a doubt the medley of mad-cap nuns, each with their own distinct character and personality.

There were obviously a few featured nuns who stood out. Holly Neil gave an outstanding performance as the timid Sister Mary Robert who blossoms before the audience’s eyes. When she hit her first big note the audience were cheering along with her and in her stunning solo “The Life I Never Led” there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

The role of grouchy Sister Mary Lazarus was handled beautifully by Kimberley Allsop and Laura Thurman was delightful as the kind-hearted, slightly crazy Sister Mary Patrick. Both ladies mastered there solo moments, especially in the uplifting “Sunday Mornign Fever” (Kimberley’s rap is definitely one to watch out for!)

I was blown away with realistic the set appeared, particularly in the big church scenes. There were some large set pieces that had to be moved on and off stage quickly, but the crew did a great job at keeping things moving as smoothly as possible.

You wouldn’t think that a costume set that consists mainly of nun’s habits would be much to write home about, but I have to say that the costumes really were the cherry on top of an already delicious cake. I’m utterly convinced that sequined habits will be all the rage during party season – where can I get me one of those?

Sister Act – the musical features all original music by Alan Menken and Glen Slater. You may not be familiar with these songs before you enter the theatre, but I guarantee you’ll be singing them all the way home. It has a great blend of up-beat disco numbers like Take Me to Heaven and Spread the Love around, as well as the powerful and heart-warming title song “Sister Act”. My all-time favourite though is of course, the extraordinary number “Raise Your Voice”, a montage of moments showing the nuns as their singing improves and their true selves are revealed. It’s a great moment in the first act and I’m not ashamed to say it bought a tear to my eye.

Sophie Petrichio-Hall’s choreography worked brilliantly to complement the big musical numbers. I always say good choreography should make you want to get up and dance. I did my best to restrain myself, but Freya and her new friend Amber (they met just before the show) couldn’t help trying to copy all of the dance moves.

Spotlight’s “Sister Act” is an absolute gem of a show, a religious experience like no other and definitely not one to be missed. From the audience’s reactions they were clearly loving every minute as they laughed, whooped and cheered along with the show. I’m pretty sure everyone was praying it would never end.

Sister Act is only on at the Nottingham Playhouse for two more shows today so make sure you get your tickets while you still can.

Simply put, it was “Fabulous Baby!”

Disclaimer: Complimentary tickets were gifted for review purposes. All views and opinions are my own

Photo credit: Cassie Hall photography

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