Sister Act at The Orchard Theatre
Fresh from a stint at the Hammersmith Apollo, Sister Act is now on tour. Sister Act the musical is based on the 1992 movie of the same name which tells of Deloris Van Cartier who witnesses her gangster boyfriend murder a police informant. She soon realises that the same fate may be waiting for her so runs to the police for protection. Deloris is put into a convent for her own protection and whilst at first she struggles to fit in, when she starts helping the choir it appears she has found her calling.
The shows music is by Alan Menken with lyrics by Glenn Slater and this is where the show really begins to shine. You have some wonderful disco numbers such as ‘Take Me To Heaven’ and ‘Fabulous Baby’ along with songs packed full of character such as ‘Raise Your Voice,’ through to the more traditional ballads like ‘Sister Act’ and ‘The Life I Never Led.’ These masterful songs paired with the array of talent on stage ensured that the sequinned habits weren’t the only things on stage that shone.
Sandra Marvin takes the role of Deloris. At the beginning of the show Deloris bemoans that she has not yet been discovered yet and with Marvin’s voice I found this hard to comprehend. She really can do it all vocally, from the more soulful numbers to the big disco moments. Marvin also brings a real warmth to the part and when her fellow nuns stand beside her as her friend in the final moments you can understand why. Vocally Marvin is not the only powerhouse on stage, Lizzie Bea as the loveable young postulant shows why she is hot property on the West End at the moment and not only delivers vocally but presents a character that you can’t help but fall in love with.
Lesley Joseph takes the role of Mother Superior who is reluctant in her housing of Deloris. Joseph strikes the balance of this role perfectly with enough gravitas to believe she could be Mother Superior but bundles of comedy to continually have the audience (and sometimes the cast) laughing with her.
Whilst all of the principle characters excelled in their roles the highlights of the show was whenever the nuns were singing and performing together. Raise Your Voice showcased them all wonderfully and numbers such as Take Me To Heaven Reprise and Sunday Morning Fever made me want to go to the church that they sing at. Whilst it was a small group of 9 nuns (well 8 and a postulant) the sound they made was rich and the energy they brought was infectious.
If I had to have a minor gripe with the show it would be with parts of the book in so far as some of the sub plots felt superfluous, for example the relationship with Eddie and Deloris was one that I struggled to care about, especially with such a strong focus on the female friendships Deloris had formed in comparison. However at the heart of the show is Deloris and her character was well developed and took the audience on her journey with her.The message about friendship and sisterhood was clear and the delivery of this was pitched perfectly.
The set design by Morgan Large was impressive, particularly for a touring set. This was combined with a clever lighting design by Tim Mitchell. The lighting set the scenes inside the church and convent well with stained glass windows shining down to the stage. The costume design is also joyful, as the nuns fame grows so does the colour on the habits until we reach the curtain call which sees the stage awash with rainbow coloured habits, a real sight to behold. Equally the costume changes in ‘In Could Be That Guy’ got their own round of applause in a blink and you could miss it moment.
Sister Act is blessed with an insanely talented cast and some fabulous (baby) numbers. If you are looking for a night out to marvel at some vocal gymnastics, be dazzled by sequins and laugh with some comedy gold talent then Sister Act is the perfect show choice to take you to heaven.
Sister Act is on at The Orchard Theatre until 11th February. To find out more about the Sister Act tour you can visit their website.