Richmond Operatic Society’s production of Sister Act opened to a packed house at The Georgian Theatre Royal. This is a popular show that puts ‘bums on seats’ and the audience had obviously come with high expectations. They were not disappointed!
Sister Act is the story of an American lounge singer named Deloris Van Cartier who witnesses her mobster boyfriend, Curtis, killing an employee. She is then hidden in a convent as part of a witness protection programme under the pseudonym of Sister Mary Clarence.
Far from sitting around all day and accepting her confinement, Deloris goes clubbing, makes friends with the nuns, and turns the dull, lifeless choir into a hip act that proves a huge success with the surrounding neighbourhood and even attracts the attention of the Pope himself. Unfortunately, this exposure also attracts the attention of Curtis and his henchman who are hunting her down.
That’s the plot in a nutshell but the piece is more to do with the power of friendship and finding people who love you for who you are, not what you are. Sister Act is about sisterhood and this is celebrated through powerful gospel music and some very groovy moves.
It is a strong cast. Gracie Will plays a very convincing Delores and Gail Barlow keeps her flock together as the tight-lipped Mother Superior but there are some excellent supporting roles which is where a lot of the true comedy lies. Gary Winn displays excellent comic timing as the weed-smoking Monsignor O’Hara and his tiny cameo role as the transvestite is brilliantly funny. The song and dance routine of Curtis’s men is another show stealer and the nuns themselves (all called Mary) have quirky characteristics that develop nicely as the plot progresses. A special mention on the night should go to Natasha Wood for her solo as Sister Mary Robert – the meek young nun who feels life is leaving her behind.
This is a big-sound show with a big cast and there was obviously a tremendous amount of work needed behind the scenes to pull it off. Evidently, all the nuns’ habits were made from scratch which is a true testimony to the skills of the seamstresses. In fact, all the costumes were brilliant from the dazzling dresses to the ingenious outfit worn by the detective Eddie Souther (Brodey Laundon) who hilariously goes from cop to disco divo and back again during his solo. The simple set is also very effective and the cloisters make a versatile backdrop to display the choir to their full advantage.
Sister Act was a good fun, feel-good show and it certainly raised the rafters on its opening night.