Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Book: Bill and Cheri Steinkellner
Director: Craig Revel Horwood
Reviewer: Tate James
Beneath the arches of Matthew Wright’s simplistic gothic church set, Alexandra Burke leads a company of actor-musicians in Craig Revel Horwood’s touring production of Sister Act The Musical.
It’s an iconic movie brought to the stage with an original score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, evoking memories of the disco, soul and Mowtown eras captured so brilliantly on the big screen. Menken’s music is undeniably infectious and has definitely been the focus of Revel Horwood’s attention in mounting this new adaptation. The intelligent scoring by Sarah Travis enables the multi-talented ensemble to accompany the band and compliment the on-stage action with a multitude of instruments. It’s an impressive facet when put to best use in numbers like the show-stopping I Could Be That Guy.
Stepping into the purple boots of Deloris Van Cartier is no easy task; to follow the lead of the comic brilliance of Whoopie Goldberg in the movie, the flawless vocals Broadway star Patina Miller in the original London production and UK star Cynthia Erivo in the original UK Tour – who is now conquering the states with her powerhouse pipes and incomparable talent. So all eyes really are on X-Factor star Alexandra Burke to combine music and comedy and take us to heaven for over two hours. Despite lacking dramatic finesse, her rough around the edges and, most importantly, highly energetic Deloris is definitely a success. This character is larger than life and Burke possesses the sass to pull it off, even if the moments of truth are over-played. She dances up a storm, her voice is sensational and her insatiable enthusiasm gives her true leading lady status.
Her leading men Aaron Lee Lambert and Joe Vetch are well matched: Lambert is confident and empowered with a luxurious baritone as bad guy Curtis and Joe Vetch’s awkward naivety and smooth tenor, complete with guitar, provide a loveable good cop Eddie. Completing the lineup are Sarah Goggin’s belting turn as shy and retiring Sister Mary Robert, Susannah Van Den Berg’s effervescent and extravagant Sister Mary Patrick and Karen Mann’s over-exaggerated Mother Superior.
What this production lacks is a filter. In Revel Horwood’s hands, there’s almost too much of everything and any subtlety and charm is amplified to 100%, so the quality suffers. The contrast between the brash world of the nightclub and the quiet contemplation of the convent is unclear, so we lose the importance of the religious setting. This is a story about two world’s colliding but learning from each other: a steadfast nun who chose a life away from noise is forced to accept a night club singer who has never had need to be quiet. Neither is expected to change: it’s about a mutual understanding that they can coexist and still make a joyful noise. Sadly, unlike previous productions which maintained a level of reverence towards the convent whilst encouraging its inhabitants to embrace a new day and age, this production chooses to poke fun at the nuns in numerous tawdry visuals favouring comedy over dignity.
That said, it’s a story about the power of music and when these sisters sing together you’ll want to jump up and Raise Your Voice along with them!
Runs until Saturday 29th July | Image: Tristram Kenton