There aren’t many shows that can get a matinee on their feet. The only times I’ve seen it locally have been with ‘Blood Brothers’ and ‘Sister Act‘. The Exeter Musical Society production of the show kept that up, proving there’s life in the matinee audience yet…
The tale of wannabe singer Deloris Van Cartier having to enter witness protection in a convent after seeing her gangster boyfriend kill a man is a great set up. The clash of worlds between disco and the convent is a constant source of humour as Deloris turns a choir of nuns into the next big thing, struggling to keep a low profile and putting her own life and the lives of the nuns in danger.
Kat Brooks makes a fabulous Deloris, giving a performance full of soul, energy and holding the focus of the audience whether singing alone or with a whole convent of nuns. There was plenty for Musical Director Simon Carter to get his teeth into, and the nuns don’t let him down with some lovely toe-tapping numbers including ‘Take Me To Heaven’ and ‘Sunday Morning Fever’.
The Mother Superior, played by Penny Daw, keeps a level of dignity in her convent and makes sure faith is never far from the centre of the story. ‘Here Within These Walls’ sets the scene beautifully and ‘Haven’t Got A Prayer’ went down very with the audience.
The stand out number from the first act came from James Billington as Eddie Souther, who during ‘I Could Be That Guy’ pulled off two costume changes and he was the only chap to give the nuns a vocal run for their money. Choreographer Mai-Lin Hagiwara must be delighted that the sequence worked so very effectively, but also be proud of her nuns, who moved as one throughout the show in a number of songs which have more than a dozen on stage dancing.
Come the second act, it was Molly Emmerson’s Sister Mary Robert that broke me, and the emotion of ‘The Life I Never Led’ seems to get me every time. The tone of the show changes here, quickly followed up with Kat Brooks delivering the title song, ‘Sister Act’ where you’re left wanting her to go back to the convent. As these two songs get a reprise, I hope we’re all punching the air as Sister Mary Robert stands up to Mother Superior, Mother Superior stands by Deloris, then one by one every nun steps out alongside her.
Then, just when you think it can’t get any better, Joe McNulty puts in a cheerful cameo appearance as the Pope, giving the director a chance to see his delighted audience! By the time the Queen of Angels Cathedral finishes a chorus of ‘Spread the Love Around’ we’re all on our feet and the Northcott is dancing. This remains a sure sign that the production has been a triumph. Holy Smokes!
And so when I reviewed a version of Sister Act in 2012 I concluded by saying that I’ll never be a sister in any sense of the word. Time passes, and as Mary Robert sings, “I’m either a sister or nothing at all.” I’m a bloody sister and I want to go back to the convent.
Last Review from the Jolly Lion: The Man Jesus