Sister Act

February 19, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★★☆    Heavenly heights

King’s Theatre: Mon 18 – Sat 21 Feb 2015

Huge and tuneful fun can be had in The Bohemians’ production of Sister Act. A move to the King’s Theatre has not daunted the company – rather, it seems to have inspired them to be bigger, grander and better.

Cheri and Bill Steinkeller’s musical, with songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, is based on the popular Whoopi Goldberg movie.

Delores and the Nuns. Photo Richard Moir

Deloris and the Nuns. Photo Richard Moir

Aspiring singer Deloris Van Cartier is forced to seek refuge in a convent after seeing her hoodlum boyfriend commit murder. The stage show transplants the action to Philadelphia in 1977, enabling the music to be more disco-inspired, but otherwise stays close to the plot of the movie.

This is not without its own problems – notably, the supposedly inept nuns’ choir are able to burst into tuneful song long before their transformation by Deloris. This, and other plot holes, mean that the musical could come across as brash and empty. It is to The Bohemians’ credit that they manage to put on a production as involving as this.

Director Colin Cairncross makes good use of the extra space on the King’s stage, and the numbers featuring the huge chorus are particularly impressive. Musical director Ian Monteith-Mathie marshals a large orchestra with drive and energy, while the work of choreographers Scott Robertson and Christopher James Carroll is noticeably effective.

This is the Scottish amateur premiere of the show, but it is safe to assume that it will not be the last. One of the features that lends itself well to amateur performance is the sheer number of characters who get a featured vocal number.

engaging presence

Some of these principals are more important than others, of course, and this production has a Deloris who is more than up to the task of holding the show together. Niloo-Far Khan’s engaging presence is allied to an extremely strong and versatile voice.

No less impressive is Dorothy Johnstone as the prickly Mother Superior who resents the arrival of an outsider in her convent. Johnstone’s voice provides an interesting contrast to Khan’s, while her performance is one of great tact and delicacy.

Groovy Goons. Photo Richard Moir

Groovy Goons. Photo Richard Moir

Mairi Beaver displays a huge, emotional voice in her featured spot as the novice Sister Mary Robert, while Gemma Banks and Pauline Dickson lead the large nuns’ chorus with tunefulness and humour.

The male roles, and indeed much of the action outside the church, are perhaps not so involving. However, both Padraic Hamrogue (evil gangster Curtis) and Gareth Brown (upstanding police officer Eddie) acquit themselves well in their solo numbers.

Some of the onstage comedy lacks the split-second timing that would make it truly memorable; however, this is certainly not true of the comedy love song featuring Thomas McFarlane, Lewis McKenzie and Andrew Knox as Curtis’s sidekicks, which works very well. Iain Fraser meanwhile, displays considerable command of stage comedy as Monsignor O’Hara.

Sister Act - an impressive set. Photo Richard Moir

Sister Act – an impressive set. Photo Richard Moir

Technically, the production is strong, with both sound and lighting being well up to the task. There is also a vast array of era-appropriate costumes. The massive, imposing set also manages to fill the acting space. Its sheer size, however, leads to some very long gaps between scenes, which is a problem in what is already a long show.

It never feels too long, however, which shows how much energy is on display. Any reservations about the production filling the stage or the auditorium of the King’s disappear within seconds, to be replaced by enjoyment and admiration.

Running time 2 hours 55 mins including interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Wednesday 18 – Saturday 21 February 2015
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinee Saturday at 2.30 pm
Tickets from http://www.edtheatres.com/sisteract
Bohemians web page http://bohemians.org.uk/

Buy the OCR MP3 download and CD – and the original movie – on Amazon:

 

Niloo-Far Khan as Deloris. Photo Richard Moir

Niloo-Far Khan as Deloris. Photo Richard Moir

ENDS

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  1. Sister Act for Edinburgh : All Edinburgh Theatre.com | April 11, 2016

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