Review: Sister Act, New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Combine the incredible direction and choreography talents of Mr Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood, the superb vocal talents of disco diva, Alexandra Burke and one of the funniest movie storylines of the 1990's and you surely have the perfect recipe for a musical.
And it gets better. Following in the footsteps of his sell out productions of Chess and Fiddler on the Roof, audiences will be delighted and astounded by an exceptionally talented cast of musician/actors who play and act out the score live on stage, in Craig's latest venture - Sister Act the Musical which is playing at the New Birmingham Alexandra Theatre from September 12-17.
These guys sing, dance and play their way through the tale of Deloris Van Cartier, a nightclub singer who witnesses a murder committed by her gangster boyfriend and his hoods and subsequently is hidden by the police in the most unlikely place –a convent - rather than face life on the run.
A murmur (apparently that is the collective term for the ladies in black!) of nuns wielding trumpets, a flute, various violins and even a saxophone tucked inside their habits could be rather alarming, not to mention very distracting, but actually once your settle into the performance, the instruments completely disappear and your are only left with total admiration for these uber talented performers.
Making the transition from pop princess to musical theatre star is not easy and there are the obvious comparisons between any actress taking on the leading role in the stage adaptation of Sister Act with the incomparable Whoopi Goldberg, who played the leading role in the film version, but actually for the most part this younger version of Deloris does work!
As you would expect, Alexandra's vocals were outstanding, bringing the house down and invoking a well deserved standing ovation. She has impeccable comedic timing, although some of her gags fell flat due to inexperienced delivery of her lines. She is physically funny, but at the same time still very attractive which is not perhaps everyone's idea of how Deloris should be, or are we just blinded by Whoopi's original characterisation? There again, she knows just how to work an audience and brings a new, fresh appeal to the character. And she is not on her own.
There is an excellent performance by Jon Robyns as Eddie, the cop who saves Deloris, whose obvious comedic talents manage to make his character both funny and appealing, while Aaron Lee Lambert offers a perfect portrayal as the shady gangster, Curtis, surrounded by his grubby little gang of sleaze balls who provide some of the funniest lines in the show as well as some ridiculous, but hilarious 1970's disco moments.
Sarah Goggin is demure and sweet as Sister Mary Robert, but then becomes the mouse that roars in her delivery of The Life I Never Led and Rosemary Ashe as Sister Mary Lazarus depicts the ideal comedy nun with her completely crazy antics!
However experience shows and Karen Mann as Mother Superior steals the show with a wonderfully seasoned performance and a tear jerking rendition of Here Within These Walls.
Fans of the previous London production may not feel that this version sparkles quite as much as the original, but hopefully the feel-good factor, hilarious storyline and upbeat, high energy score, which includes Marc Shaiman's Take Me to Heaven, Fabulous Baby and a stunning finale number called Spread the Love Around, will ensure holy water is poured on any troubled waters!
I defy anyone not to come out of the theatre singing Hallelujah, Praise the Lord and dancing on air after this ecclesiastical experience because it's simply divine!
Sister Act runs from September 12-17. Visit www.atgtickets.com or call 0844 871 3011 to book.