There’s many reasons to rejoice about the production of Sister Act the Musical.
On Tuesday, audiences at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal were treated to an astounding performance that was larger than life and ‘camper than Christmas’.
Sister Act the Musical is a feel good and hilarious show. You may remember the 90’s film of the same name which starred Whoopi Goldberg, but the similarities to the motion picture counterpart are few and far between.
Set at the end of the 1970s, just before Christmas, Deloris Van Cartier (played by Morpeth’s Lauren Gordon) thinks she has life all sussed out, but it all takes a major turn when she witnesses her boyfriend shooting a police informant.
At the station she meets Sweaty Eddie (played by Simon Pinkney, from Alnwick) an old school friend turned police officer, who is her only hope of staying alive. The only place he can think of to hide her from her psychopathic lover Curtis (Leon Gill) is in a church under the threat of closure.
At the helm of the production is Gordon, who is not only a former King Edward VI musical theatre student she is now set to train at the prestigious Mountview academy in London in 2016.
The musical production has some major differences that will surprise someone who is only familiar with the motion picture.
You have bones of the film – singer sees man being shot, goes into witness protection, transforms the church choir, saves the church from falling into ruin, then things turn for the worse when her boyfriend tracks her down.
But the script has been adapted by Mill and Cheri Steinkellner and is almost as hilarious as the film.
As for the music, Michael Lamb at the baton has produced a fantastic realisation of Disney composer Alan Menken’s score. The 14-piece band made a stunning job of the arrangements, although, at times some of the actor’s microphones weren’t switched on and you couldn’t hear what was being said.
One of the important things about putting on a show that is so far from the original which everyone knows and loves is that every word has to be spoken with clarity and precision. Luckily, all the cast and chorus delivered lines with punch, poise and are very comfortably in the 1,000-plus venue.
The biggest star, or should I say stars, of the show were, indeed, the 36 singing nuns that rocked the stage.
Never have I seen a show that has so heavily-relied on such a strong, uplifting and in-time chorus line. Although director and choreographer Sandra Laidler had made the dance moves, in parts, less than complicated, she was very clever in making sure they were simple so it gave a bigger wow factor when all of them were in time.
A particular favourite was the opening of the second act with a heavenly host of tap dancing nuns.
Turning to the individual performers, audience favourites were clearly Sarah Wales (Sister Mary Patrick) and Jojo Hatfield (Sister Mary Lazarus), who drew-in the audience with their hilarious stand-out performances.
For me, the real star was Helen Cash as Mother Superior. Cash had a really true, pure tone to her voice which made her perfect for the frustrated leader of the church and contrasted well with Gordon who ‘assumes all attention’.
Another strong point about the performance was the horde of men in the chorus and lead roles. The production works well to incorporate some great male leads in a show which is a vehicle for female leads.
And 14-year-old Ty Roach-Thompson was a stand out as TJ.
The show is at The theatre Royal until Saturday. For tickets go to www.theatreroyal.co.uk or call 08448 112121.