New Victoria Theatre, Woking – until 25 March 2017
There is no doubting that Alexandra Burke delivers a sassy and funny performance as Deloris Van Cartier – but there are some lingering doubts about the story being made into a musical. Based on the 1992 hit film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act has plenty of laughs but due much of the action happening in the convent – it feels a bit insubstantial for a musical – despite some great performances.
When nightclub singer Deloris witnesses her violent partner commit murder, she is forced to go into hiding as she offers (reluctantly) to become a witness and where better to hide than a convent – which is failing to draw as many people to its Sunday services as hoped. Together, Deloris and the other sisters must work together to make sure the church doesn’t close.
Craig Revel-Horwood’s production works in the way in which it shows the close bond between the sisters and Deloris as well capturing the spirit of the musical ensuring that the audience will have a great time. But there is no denying that this high energy and fast-paced production exposes the weaknesses and of course the flimsiness of the plot which makes it difficult to warm to – not helped by the fact much of the action is staged in one place, with only the occasional glimpse of other settings.
Yet, the choreography is fun throughout and there is plenty of laughs to be had, with one slow motion sequence of action particularly hilarious. It is an upbeat production that is warmly received by the audience, particularly during numbers such as ‘Take Me to Heaven’ and ‘Raise Your Voice’.
There are some great performances to be enjoyed as well. Not least Alexandra Burke’s Deloris, suitably sassy and while self absorbed at the start emerges with a heart of gold that is instantly likeable. There are occasional moments when she slightly over exaggerates the comedy that it doesn’t feel natural, but overall she is a delight to watch.
Sarah Goggin as Sister Mary Robert really grows throughout her performance and certainly one of the stronger nuns on stage throughout, confidently transforming from timid to someone who finally manages to find her own voice perfectly. While Aaron Lee Lambert as the charmingly villainous Curtis has a wonderfully rich voice that is quietly sinister at the same time.
Ultimately, the performances are strong as is the music but overall the story and the production feels slightly too basic to be truly effective. But there is no doubting that many will still appreciate its sense of humour and joyful spirit.