Huzzah, hallelujah and praise be for Sister Act! Currently on tour, it is a glitzy and slick musical theatre fun-fest. A great choice for a regional tour with the ‘star-power’ of Alexandra Burke and Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood’s touches on the direction and choreography. (I didn’t really need the recorded announcement from him at the top of the show though, dahhhling.) Sister Act, based on the hugely successful 1992 film, tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe disco diva, whose life turns upside down when she witnesses her no-good boyfriend commit a murder. Under police custody she is hidden in the local convent as a nun. Going toe-to-toe with the traditional Mother Superior, Deloris finds solace in helping her Sisters discover their true voices. And, as with the film, it is truly lovely to see something that foregrounds female friendship.
Joyously, Alexandra Burke is a ‘celebrity’ casting who can actually do the things required of them in a musical; sing, dance and perhaps the one that is most usually lacking, act. Although her performance of the starstruck Delores is a little one-dimensional, she does manage to quickly win the audience over with her comedy timing. This is a good show for her – allowing her to showcase her impressive vocal range, whilst have great fun strutting her stuff as a disco diva.
The score by the inimitable Alan Menken is delightfully tinged with Seventies soul, Motown and disco, whilst still maintaining an almost familiar feel. The actor-musicians have tonnes of fun exploring the rounded brassy sounds of the upbeat material, and with instruments in hand there is something delightfully… well… honest, about this production. It’s a cute idea, and it comes off well. The ensemble are utterly fantastic. It has been a really long time since I’ve seen an ensemble work so hard, and seem to be having so much fun. This is an utter masterclass in creating and sustaining character – instruments are played and choreography is danced in character. This cast work incredibly hard and really make this production the success it is. Sarah Goggin is a delightfully timid mouse turned powerhouse as Sister Mary Robert, and there are acres of laughs from both Susannah Van Der Berg and Rosemary Ashe. I must also admit to being enthralled by the performances from Jon Robyns as police officer ‘Sweaty Eddie’, and Sandy Grigelis as the sleazy TJ, whose facial expressions alone are probably worth the ticket-price.
For once, the book hasn’t been ignored in favour of ‘star-casting’ and is mostly strong and laugh-out-loud funny. However, there are definitely a few moments that feel awkward, the Seventies setting perhaps taken a little too literally with some of the language and ideas used. It’s a minor niggle that makes the evening ever-so-slightly tawdry. Despite that, this is certainly a feel good evening’s entertainment, and probably rates amongst the top five musicals Milton Keynes has seen in the past year. I guarantee you will leave with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
Milton Keynes Theatre
7:30pm (2:30pm matinee)
26th September – 1st October 2016
Then continuing on tour.
© Carly Halse - Reviewed on Monday 26th September 2016.