Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Sister Act - Review - Liverpool Empire Theatre
Liverpool Empire Theatre - 22nd May 2012
Deloris Van Cartier is back! The stage adaptation of the 1992 movie ‘Sister Act’ premiered at the London Palladium in 2009, later transferred to Broadway and has now made its way to Liverpool in the middle of a UK tour. A last minute ticket booth purchase saw me catch the show in the West End in 2010 and we found it one of the most enjoyable new musicals of recent years. Looking forward to seeing it again, I made my way to the opening night at Liverpool Empire to see if the show is as much fun now as it was then. The answer?
A resounding YES!
I always worry when seeing a show for the second time that it won’t have the same spark that made me love it before and with touring musicals there is always a danger that the set and cast will be scaled down to such an extent that it is distracting if you saw it in its original incarnation (*cough* Spamalot *cough*). I am pleased to say however that the tour of ‘Sister Act’ captures all of the joy and energy of the West End version and though there are some obvious changes most don‘t detract from the show. The only thing I missed was ‘How I Got The Calling’; the new song ‘It’s Good To Be A Nun’ in its place is entertaining but lacks the insight into the back story of the characters that the former gave.
If you’re not familiar with the story of ‘Sister Act’, lounge singer Deloris witnesses a murder committed by boyfriend Curtis and after turning police informant is forced to hide in the one place they think he will never find her, a convent. You don’t however have to be familiar with the film to appreciate the musical and though the book generally is quite thin it is witty and fast-paced and the characters are immediately brought to life thanks to some brilliant performances.
Cynthia Erivo is excellent as Deloris; full of attitude, spirit and heart, not to mention a stunning voice, effortlessly switching from the catchy ‘Fabulous Baby!’ to the tender title track. Denise Black is delightfully droll as Mother Superior and Michael Starke as Monsignor O’Hara makes the most of his appearances and clearly enjoyed being back in Liverpool as much as the audience enjoyed seeing him (judging by the excited ‘IT’S SINBAD’ murmur that rose up around me when he made his first appearance)!
From their first tuneless appearance the Sisters provide one laugh after another. The shy and timid Sister Mary Robert is played here by Julie Atherton and after seeing her Avenue Q, I can safely say that there is nothing she can’t do, capturing the ‘heart and soul’ of the youngest nun who also gets to deliver my favourite one-liner (“This must be how Protestants feel!”). Laurie Scarth was another familiar face to me, after her excellent performance as Tracy Turnblad in the UK tour of Hairspray and here she is a delight again as the bubbly Sister Mary Patrick, who seems to have been waiting her whole life for the chance to dance! Jacqueline Clarke completes the trio of featured nuns as the scene-stealing Sister Mary Lazarus, whose solo rap has the audience in hysterics.
There is great support also from Edward Baruwa as ‘Sweaty Eddie’ and Cavin Cornwall as Curtis Jackson, who both make the most of their solo numbers. Curtis’s hapless henchmen may be stereotypical but Daniel Stockton, Gavin Alex and Tyrone Huntley are undeniably funny, especially as boy band-esque backing dancers in ‘When I Find My Baby’.
Alan Menken’s music features both big ballads and fun up-tempo disco numbers. A talented ensemble filling the stage, a colourful church set and energetic choreography turns group numbers, such as ‘Take Me To Heaven Reprise’, ‘Sunday Morning Fever’ and ‘Spread the Love Around’ into fantastic spectacles. Despite being most like Sister Mary Robert myself, avoiding dancing in public as much as humanly possible, even I was bobbing along in my chair with everyone else!
Uplifting, joyous and full of fun, I fail to see how anyone can leave ‘Sister Act’ without a smile on their face. Fabulous with a capital F, it is the perfect feel-good show for summer. At the Liverpool Empire until the 2nd June book now and embrace the sparkle of the Sisterhood!