Sister Act - New Wimbledon Theatre (Review)
Review by David Munro
CLAP your hands and be joyful for a sparkling bright feel-good production of Sister Act is now appearing at The New Wimbledon Theatre prior to a nationwide tour.
Based on the film of the same name and commissioned by the star of the film, Whoopi Goldberg, the musical version premiered at the London Palladium a few years ago prior to a trip to Broadway.
The story revolves around Dolores, a would be cabaret artist who sees a gangland killing by her lover. She has to be hidden away for her own safety so the police persuade a convent to take her in.
She transforms the nuns into a swinging Gospel choir, which ultimately is blessed by the Pope despite the misgivings and hostility of the Mother Superior.
The majority of the show is taken up with the gospel singing sessions of the nuns, whose habits become more and more outrageous as their popularity grows, which are staged with enormous style and gusto by director Jerry Zaks and choreographer Anthony van Laast.
Dolores is played by Cynthia Erivo with warmth, humour and best of all a tremendous vocal power which enables her to dominate the ensembles.
Apart from its power her voice is very pleasing and in the few quieter moments she excels in the introspective ballads given her by lyricist Glenn Slater and composer Alan Menken. It’s a performance that well justifies the price of admission.
As the bothered and bewildered Mother Superior who eventually becomes bewitched by Dolores, Denise Black bewails her situation in several effective point numbers addressed to the Almighty.
Her role is a bit of a cardboard cut-out and a foil to the worldliness portrayed by Dolores and her singing but Miss Black manages to make a real character of the role bolstered by her telling delivery of the one liner.
The third major character, the diocesan Monsignor, is in the safe hands of Michael Starke who becomes amusingly converted by Dolores’ charm and proves to be an enthusiastic rock-and-roller in his own right, which is wickedly funny.
The rest of the cast make a brilliant ensemble for the songs while still giving each role a character of his or her own. Without wishing to denigrate any of the other good and effective performances, Julie Atherton (despite the occasional strident note) made a pathetic postulant wishing for the life she never led and Tyrone Huntley, in an outstanding debut performance, made a loveable character of the villain’s nephew and sidekick – definitely someone to watch!
This delightful show is running for another week at Wimbledon and is well worth a visit. If, as I did, you saw and enjoyed the original there are moments of excellence both in the staging and the singing which surpass the original and highlight delights you may have missed before; this is not a slavish copy – it is worth viewing in its own right!
Book – Cheri & Bill Steinkellner
Music – Alan Menken
Lyrics – Glenn Slater
Director – Jerry Zaks
Choreographer – Anthony Van Laast
Set Designer – Klara Zieglerova
Costume Designer – Lee Brotherston
Lighting – Natasha Katz
Sound – Gareth Owen
Musical director – Mark Crossland
Presented by Whoopi Goldberg & Stage Entertainment
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway , Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QG
From Tues, June 5 to Sat, June 16, 2012
Evenings: 7.30pm/Matinees – Thurs & Sat 2.30pm
Box Office: 0870 060 6646