Tuesday, 13 May 2014



Theatre Run: Tuesday 13 - Saturday 17 May 2014
Performance Reviewed: Tuesday 13 May 2014 (Press Night)

Reviewed by Kyle Pedley

Amateur theatre and local operatic societies continue to thankfully be plentiful in number and ever evolving in regards to the professionalism, ambition and scope of the productions they put on, something which is plenty evident within the West Midlands. The West Bromwich Operatic Society/WBOS are one such organisation who, with their latest production, Sister Act, further blur the boundaries between professional productions and amateur with an extremely accomplished, technically audacious and supremely enjoyable adaptation of one of musical theatre’s more recent success stories. Following on from a celebrated original stint in London, a subsequent Broadway run and UK national tour, Sister Act is a musical adaptation of the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy movie of the same name. There’s some tweaks to character and plot, most notably (but understandably) dragging the whole thing back 20 years so it nestles comfortably with the disco stylings of the 1970’s, and the score is entirely original as opposed to the collection of jukebox hits from the movie, but otherwise those familiar with the original will have a strong idea of what to expect here.

Funny, charming and all a dash more comedically heightened and exaggerated than it’s filmic source material, Sister Act is a big, bold reminder of just how much fun musical theatre is capable of being. Soulful yet sinful Deloris Van Cartier (Tasheka Coe) is an ambitious, aspiring singer-performer, unsatisfied being relegated to menial performing work for her married gangster boyfriend Curtis Jackson (Callum McArthur) and a flurry of dreams and ideals for the ‘Fabulous’ life she has envisaged for herself. Attempting to leave, she bears witness to Curtis and his goons murdering a police informant, and is persuaded by former childhood admirer Eddie Souther (Simon McGee), now a police officer, to hide undercover at a local convent, much to the dismay of its strictly principled Mother Superior (Eileen Woolley). 

All the terrific character beats and dynamics of the movie are perfectly captured by both the original shows book and also WBOS’ terrific work in bringing it all to the stage. There is a demonstrable wealth of talent both on-stage and off within the ranks of the society, as the show not only looks and sounds terrific, with notably professional standards of lighting and staging in particular, but is also brought to life by a terrific cast and company that all mine every ounce of fun, energy and humour out of the rich material they have to work with. So often more enthused and spritely shows such as Sister Act lose a great deal of their spark and impact in amateur productions, but WBOS demonstrate no such apathy, and their Sister Act proves to be divinely good fun throughout and every bit as enjoyable as its professional predecessor. Having seen the West End and touring productions, my expectations going in were set high given my fondness of the show and it’s superb Alan Menken/Glenn Slater soundtrack in particular, and it is with some confidence one can say that anyone who missed out on the show previously will here be getting the full, faithful Sister Act experience courtesy of WBOS and a production of near-comparable standard of excellence.

Tasheka Coe, who in 2010 appeared as a finalist in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Over The Rainbow, makes a wonderful Deloris, managing to impressively navigate the various nuances of the character from sassy soul singer to ultimately a far more introspective and empathetic character. She is matched beautifully by Eileen Woolley, who deadpans Mother Superior’s acerbic putdowns with a real dry relish, as well as displaying some beautiful vocals, particularly in Act II’s ‘Haven’t Got a Prayer’, one of the character and actresses highlights. Rachel Davies shows the makings of a thoroughly capable and gifted stage actress, and it is great when she finally gets chance to tear into some of the big belts of ‘The Life I Never Led’. The entire company of nuns, likewise, including great supporting turns from Lizzie Buckingham and Trish Humphreys (particularly hilarious and impressive as all-rapping Sister Mary Lazarus), are a complete joy, with their choral numbers and harmonies rousing, exuberant and vocally on-point throughout.

One of the great achievements of the original show is in how it strengthened and played around with the male characters, and whilst casting Callum McArthur as gangster Curtis robs him of some of the soul/Motown spirit of the original role (usually played by a Black actor), he is so strong in terms of both performance and vocals it hardly matters, and certainly doesn’t negatively affect the production. Similarly, his three henchmen Joey (Simon Pugh), TJ (Matt Nicholas) and Pablo (James Mateo-Salt) are great fun throughout, most notably in their Act II big number, ‘Lady in the Long Black Dress’ which audibly became a firm audience favourite. In regards to the rest of the men, Simon McGee is endearing and displays impressive comic chops as ‘sweaty’ Eddie, and Nicholas Sullivan steals practically every scene he is in as the excitable, buoyant Monsignor O’Hara.

In all, WBOS should be tremendously proud of what they have achieved with Sister Act, for to recapture the Sister Act experience so accurately, and indeed professionally, is no small achievement, and in many ways it proves itself to be the most impressive and ambitious amateur production I have had the pleasure of experiencing in my years of reviewing theatre. Fans of the film or simply musical theatre as a whole should consider it their sacred duty to check this out, not only to support one of the Midlands' very finest amateur theatre societies who are achieving great things, but also to genuinely experience one of the better musicals of the past few years brought back to the stage with almost startling accuracy, talent and self-evident passion and professionalism.

(A)musings does not provide star ratings or musings for local productions. 

SISTER ACT is running at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Tuesday 13 to Saturday 17 May 2014.
CLICK HERE for more information on the show's run at the Wolverhampton Grand and to book your tickets!

Alternatively, telephone the Box Office directly on 01902 42 92 12.

For more information on West Bromwich Operatic Society (WBOS), head on over to their official website by clicking HERE.

For more news, updates and exclusive content from (A)musings, be sure to 'like' our Facebook page and follow Kyle on Twitter!

Press tickets for this performance of Sister Act were provided courtesy of the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation and support.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Sharing your musings! Let us know what you think...