These Sisters are doing it not for themselves but for everybody. ‘I can hear you smile’ says the Mother Superior to her temporary Nun in the convent under witness protection, but she could have been talking to those in the audience who by the interval had smiles as wide as Leith Walk is long!
I thought that Legally Blonde would be hard to beat as the best musical at the theatre this year but this show was tremendous in terms of sheer enjoyment and lifting the spirits. If the National Health Service was able to prescribe a couple of hours at the Playhouse then anyone feeling a bit down would feel immediately uplifted.
Based on the successful film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act the musical is everything it had but so much more. The immediacy of theatre with a cast as good as this leaves the celluloid version a poor second in terms of effect on the audience.
The storyline follows Deloris, an aspiring singer and the girlfriend of a gangster, who walks in on a murder being committed by him and takes to her heels and lands up at a police station somewhere in Philadelphia. She meets up with a former classmate who had a crush on her at High School who decides that the eye witness will need protection and takes her to the local convent.
As the church and convent are facing hard times financially and are likely to be sold off, the Mother Superior and Monsignor O’Hara accept money from the police department and tell the sisters a white lie about who the new nun really is. What happens next in the convent with the sisters as the gang try to find her is what you remember from the film. The not-so-heavenly choir at the convent is taken over by our aspiring singer and turned into a musical phenomenon which has the crowds filling the pews and coffers of the church much to the delight of the Monsignor and the horror of the Mother Superior who sees her passive nuns turned into unholy divas.
Everything about this show is top class. The mixture of experienced players with some fairly fresh newcomers is inspired in its casting and there isn’t a weak link on show.
Denise Black as the despairing Mother Superior has the best of the comedic lines but her demeanour and facial expressions convey so much more, Michael Starke (Sinbad in Brookside) as the money-making monsignor looks at home in an amazing church setting that reminds you of Liverpool R.C. cathedral, but never lets his American accent down as he turns into a priest/promoter of the swinging sisters.
Cynthia Erivo as Deloris is an all action leading lady whether singing, dancing or acting and holds that stage on her own as if she has found her rightful place in life.
When it comes to scene-stealing some of the supporting cast are guilty of grand larceny. Gang members act as the three stooges but they have a number to themselves where Daniel Stockton is excellent. Gavin Cornwall as the menacing Curtis has a great voice and mannerisms to match. Sweaty Eddie is played by Edward Baruva and his transformation and back again in ‘I could be that guy’ is very, very clever. The singing and dancing nuns led by Jacqueline Clarke and Laurie Scarth are outstanding as is Julie Atherton as the young nun Sister Mary Robert.
In danger of running out of superlatives, the direction, choreography, lighting, music and above all the sets are simply as good as you are going to get in one bundle. The touch at the end with the conductor pure genius!
If you can only afford to go to one musical this winter then get along to the Playhouse this week and next and get your share of the ‘feel good’ factor.
Runs to Saturday 12 November (Wed and Sat matinees, 2.30pm)