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Sister Act (tour – Eastbourne, Congress Theatre)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Screen-to-stage musicals have a very difficult task. To live up to the images created on the big screen requires a very slick and adaptable set, a huge wardrobe, impressive lighting effects and – above all that – a supremely talented cast who adore the original and want to live up to its reputation. This production has all of that, and more. It also has heart. A huge heart fuelled by the cast’s love, not only for the show but also for the sentiment behind it.

The story stays very faithful to the film with most of the action taking place inside the convent where, whilst hiding away as part of a witness protection scheme, Deloris Van Cartier, played perfectly by Cynthia Erivo, turns the tuneless sisters into a rocking gospel choir.

Denise Black leaves her Weatherfield days far behind her to display a decent singing voice, and brilliant comic timing, as the Mother Superior. Her one-liners are delivered skilfully and her frustration at being saddled with her wayward charge is written all over her, very expressive, face. Michael Starke makes the most of his part as Monsignor O’Hara, although his appearances are too short and too infrequent and he is left with little more than a cameo role.

The competition to steal the show is totally about three boys against three girls with (dare I say it) the girls just about coming out on top. Sister Mary Lazarus Jacqueline Clarke, Sister Mary Patrick Laurie Scarth and the timid Sister Mary Robert Julie Atherton are just fantastic. Each character grows as the show progresses and they all have hidden talents which surprise and please the audience as they are revealed.

The three scene-stealing boys are Gavin Alex, Daniel Stockton and the brilliant newcomer Tyrone Huntley as the inept gang of cronies working for club owner Curtis Jackson, played soulfully by Gavin Cornwall. The boys get two superb songs in which they display their comic genius and their ability to really lay down some great 70s disco backing singer moves. Huntley, making his professional debut, has a confidence on stage that far outweighs his experience and has a wonderfully falsetto singing voice that will take him far.

The choreography, courtesy of Anthony Van Laast, is very tight throughout the production and the original score, although not exactly memorable on first hearing, does contain some brilliant solo numbers like “I could be that guy”, “The life I never led” and the very emotional title track. The uplifting gospel songs have the audience tapping their feet and clapping along and, after a very short time, the mood in the auditorium becomes one of joy and celebration which lasts all the way to the standing ovation at the curtain call.

If fact, this show makes you feel so good – it must be a sin!


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