★★★| When 70’s disco lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier witnesses Curtis, her married, crime-boss lover, murdering one of his cohorts; she is placed in witness protection in the last place on earth anyone would look for such a sassy little lady – a convent. Trying desperately to fit in, whilst doing nothing but standing out, she is assigned to take over the choir, whose screeching vocals are enough to curl your wimple. But as the singer tunes up the choir, Curits finds out where Deloris is, and sets out to make sure she doesn’t testify against him.
Featuring the songs “Raise Your Voice”, “Take Me To Heaven”, “Fabulous Baby” and “Spread the Love Around”, Sister Act is a fun, spirited and vivacious show with very catchy songs, warm characters and a spring in its step. With a large, static set and a vibrant lighting design by Liam Jones, the production is bolstered by the presence of Alexandra Burke who, to her credit, could certainly belt out the big numbers. There was some very able (and tuneful) support from Joe Vetch as Detective “Sweaty” Eddie Souther, and a real smooth criminal in Aaron Lee Lambert as Curtis, the Shaft influenced, soul styled bad guy. Throw into the mix some enjoyable physical comedy from Curtis’s cronies, and you have the basis of a good show.
But with every heavenly blessing, there are some sins to atone for, as Craig Revel Horwood’s direction doesn’t quite hit its stride, with a heavy reliance on over-exaggeration of movement and gurning facial expressions; which meant that instead of the comedy flowing naturally from the effervescent script, it felt somewhat forced. The inclusion of musical instruments being played by the cast on stage worked in parts, but served as a distraction in others; and felt as though it stifled the choreography, which is a shame given the directors “Strictly” credentials. But once confession is over, all is forgiven as the show yields to its musical-number-filled second act and feel-good finale.
Sister Act is a high energy bundle of fun, and whilst this production and ensemble cast doesn’t sparkle quite as brightly as other productions of this show, it has enough big tunes, bold characters and beating heart to make for an toe-tapping, if ultimately throwaway, evening at the theatre.
Sister Act is currently on a UK Tour until 7th September 2017 and details can be found at http://www.sisteractuktour.co.uk/ . The show was reviewed at Sheffield Theatres, who’s upcoming production of new musical “Everyone’s Talking About Jamie” opens on the 9th February 2017. Visit https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/everybodystalking-jamie for details.