BOA Musical Theatre don’t shy away from some of the biggest and best musicals out there and this year is no exception. Sister Act is most closely associated with the 1992 film featuring Whoopi Goldberg, a feel-good musical comedy that’s guaranteed to get your toes tapping. When Alan Menken and Glenn Slater collaborated together to write a fresh score and bring this brilliant film to the stage, there was no denying they had a challenge on their hands. However, the musical is just as glorious and tonight BOA MT delivered a performance with great aplomb.
As with many of BOA’s shows, they double cast some of the leading roles, which really goes to show the range of talent they possess. It was also great to see some fresh interpretation thrown in for good measure, having seen the show a number of times, these minor, yet effective tweaks don’t go unnoticed. For me, this was particularly apparent in the confrontation near the end, when Curtis finds Deloris in the convent and the nuns performed a rousing reprise of Sister Act. Ordinarily this is sang as a solo, but turning it into a choral number was a stroke of genius.
That said, all of the iconic chorus numbers: Raise Your Voice, Take Me To Heaven and Sunday Morning Fever were executed to sheer perfection. The harmonies were beautifully tight, with vocal precision throughout. This group of nuns were fierce. There were a couple of brief moments in the more physically demanding numbers where the harmonies teetered and the volume dropped, and some small bits of dialogue were inaudible, due to some sound balance issues - although these can be easily rectified. The only other slight issue was with the spot lighting, as there were times where actors were indistinguishable.
Nevertheless, this huge cast handled the show with a professionalism beyond their college years. There were some brilliant performances, including the quartet of baddies (Lewis Roberts, Fraser Howes, Nathan King and Harry Singh), Meg Aucott who was in great voice as she brought to life the hilariously wonderful Sister Mary Patrick, Katie Rowley was in fine form as Sister Mary Robert, with a practically flawless rendition of The Life I Never Led, Jack Christou made for an endearing Eddie Souther and Callum Maine was the perfectly camp Monsignor O’Hara.
But there were three performers, who in their own ways really did shine on that stage tonight. Firstly, Mariah Loizou, who took on the role of Sister Mary Lazarus (a part with a playing age of 50-70), but guess what, it didn’t matter in the slightest because Loizou was both convincing and hilarious in the role. Secondly, there was Jess Olford, who’s performance as the Mother Superior was unfaltering. Her voice soared in I Haven’t Got A Prayer and vocally it was one of the best performances I've heard of that song. Finally, Libby Simpkins. What a monumental task she had. The role of Deloris Van Cartier is no mean feat, yet Simpkins delivered a performance packed with humour, emotion and sassiness. Not only that, blimey can that girl sing. A real star in the making.
With great use of The Old Rep space, the production team of Daniel Summers (Musical Director), Dan Branch (Director) and Lee Crowley, George Miller and Stacy Hancock (Choreography) have created a sparkling show that the audience absolutely loved. Ending with a standing ovation, there is not much more you can say except ‘Fabulous, Baby’.
Sister Act plays at The Old Rep until 24 March.
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