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Sister Act – Bristol Hippodrome REVIEW

It may not be a classic musical but Sister Act has its time and place and for certain it’s large number of devoted fans, proven by the packed out auditorium and standing ovation.

For those of you like myself, that are yet to see the 1992 film of Sister Act starring the legend that is, Whoopi Goldberg, this is the general gist of the story. When the larger-than-life Deloris Van Cartier is forced to hide in a convent full of nuns after witnessing a cold blooded murder, things were never exactly going to go smoothly. Deloris, played by Alexandra Burke, flees from her killer boyfriend and finds sanctuary amongst a group of honest nuns who she quickly becomes close to after transforming their lack-lustre and pitchy choir into a soulful singing group.

SISTER ACT. Alexandra Burke as 'Deloris Van Cartier'. Photo by Tristram Kenton (2)

Burke is fantastic as the sassy musician. Hilarious and compelling, Alexandra’s charisma and personality shone on stage, giving off a natural stage presence putting the audience immediately at ease. Her acting wasn’t of a professional standard but she kept up with the rest of the cast and settled into her character as the show went on. Past experience in the touring show “The Bodyguard” and a clear natural talent showed us that this girl can do more than just sing. And boy, can she sing… An effortlessly powerful range and a beautiful tone that lends itself perfectly to the soulful style of the 60s.

SISTER ACT. Company. Photo by Tristram Kenton

Burke was backed by a wonderful ensemble of nuns and multitalented musicians. The youngest of the group Sister Mary Roberts, played by Sarah Goggin stole my heart as the wallflower of the group. Other strong characters came in the forms of the over excited Sister Mary Patrick and Sister Mary Lazarth who had a tendency to rap. Even the Mother Superior, played by Karen Mann had a mischievous streak and enjoyed a cheeky wine, or three. It was wonderful to slowly watch each unique member of the ensemble develop with their detailed personalities and distinctive quirks. There is nothing like a bunch of singing, dancing and slightly wild nuns to make you smile.

The costume and hair gets an honourable mention, with designer Matthew Wright clearly having heavily researched the times’ fashion and religious dress. From the habits to the sequins and rosary beads to tight flares the costumes blend with the time. It is obvious he is a stickler for detail and the show does not lack in this department.

SISTER ACT. Alexanda Burke as 'Deloris Van Cartier' and Ensemble. Photo by Tristram Kenton

As I mentioned I am yet to see the film (it is now top of my list), therefore it is difficult to comment on the music as I am unsure how it differs to in the film. Nevertheless I enjoyed most numbers, particularly Raise Your Voice and Take me to Heaven. I also feel it benefitted from the slower songs and scenes as it is a loud fast paced production so this helped with the balance. The rich soulful sounds of Philadelphia in the 1960s oozed off the stage with help from a live on stage band made of a mismatch of actors and musicians.

Craig Revel Horwood, Strictly’s infamous judge villain and now Sister Act’s latest Director has exceeded expectations to create a production suitable for all ages. It can be seen as a little over the top and maybe a touch pantomime in parts but the humour went down well with most of the audience. The production generally had very few weak points, which can be a tricky balancing act with a such an energetic show.

The dark story mixed lighthearted and simplistic humour made for a good balance. Add the element of sisterhood and a lot of oomph from the characters and numbers and you’ve got a smile inducing show. Hallelujah!

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