Redemption with a touch of soul

Sister Act
Wolverhampton Grand

****

IN her purple thigh-length boots, matching hot pants and gold sparkly top Deloris Van Cartier would hardly be mistaken for a nun. But then that is the whole point of Sister Act The Musical.
Based on the hit Hollywood film starring Whoopi Goldberg, this tale is all about transformation. When potty-mouthed Deloris is witness to a murder she escapes into police protection and is hidden away in the one place the criminals are unlikely to find her - a convent.

There her initial horror is replaced with enthusiasm when the nightclub singer is given the job of turning the truly horrendous choir into a musical sensation on a par with the Military Wives. One day they are tunelessly droning to an empty church, the next they are top of the pops and hurling out Gospels before the Pope.

 All around transformations are taking place - Deloris finds peace and friendship in the cloister, Mother Superior comes to see the true goodness in Deloris and we all come to believe in the essential benefits of a really good singsong.

Cynthia Erivo telling it how it is, sisters, as the bad girl turning good diva, Deloris 

Directed by Jerry Zaks, Sister Act is all feel-good stuff driven along with some lively music by Alan Menken and choreography from Anthony Van Laast which easily sweeps the audience off its feet. Full marks go to Glenn Slater for some imaginative lyrics while Cheri and Bill Steinkellner's book is full of humour.

Cynthia Erivo may be recently out of RADA but she holds the lead role with great ease and confidence, switching from diva to sister and belting out her songs like she was born to be centre stage. She is given ample support from former Coronation Street actress Denise Black as the dour and somewhat confused Mother Superior who gradually warms to her somewhat unusual nun.

Former Brooksider Michael Starke would benefit from a bit more stage time as Monsignor O'Hara but clearly enjoys being the centre of attention before the Pope while Edward Baruwa is a thoroughly likeable cop Sweaty Eddie.
In many ways though the best roles go to the baddies with Gavin Cornwall a highly unpleasant Curtis Jackson and his three stooges Pablo (Gavin Alex), TJ (Tyrone Huntley) and Joey (Daniel Stockton) so totallly repulsive their self-belief is hilarious.

Alongside are the ensemble of nuns who befriend Deloris and find a sisterhood with her which transcends the immense gulf in their lifestyles.

By its close we are all left with a feeling that similarities will always overcome difference, tolerance wins over suspicion and familiarity breeds not contempt but true friendship. And that isn't a bad message to take away from a night out at the theatre. To 18-02-12
Diane Parkes  

 

Here starteth the second lesson . . .

 ****

GOOD Heavens! This is a musical about gangsters and nuns, and that's no joke.

It was a hit movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, and now the show is on tour of UK theatres delighting bumper audiences with its generous helping of fun, drama fine songs and thrilling music.

And what a star they have found for the lead role. Cynthia Erivo is a pocket dynamo, simply bursting with talent and oozing personality as disco diva Deloris Van Cartier.

She becomes a Nun on the run when the local police hide her in a convent to escape killers after she witnesses a man being gunned down.

But instead of lying low she sets about transforming the dreadful convent choir into a class act, appears on TV and then needs the protection of her new 'gang' of nuns to stay alive.

Monsignor O'Hara (Michael Starke) and the strict Mother Superior (former Coronation Street star Denise Black) are not amused at first, but as the empty church starts to fill up thanks to the mix of Motown, funk, soul and disco music, they learn to love the startling newcomer. And the Pope turns up to give it his blessing.

Fine performances, too, from Edward Baruwa, the cop Sweaty Eddie, who eventually falls in love with Deloris, and Cavin Cornwall (the killer Curtis Jackson). Some wonderful costumes light up the stage....but not as much as Ms Erivo does. And the dress she wears after dispensing with her nun's habit for the curtain call is stunning. To 18-02-12

Paul Marston 

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