Sister Act

Feb 14 2020 | By More

★★★★☆  Nun better

The Brunton: Thurs 13 – Sat 15 February 2020
Review by Martin Gray

Sisters are doing it for themselves – and packed houses – at the Brunton this week as Our Lady of Loretto Youth Players aim for the heights in an ambitious production of Sister Act.

Take Me To Heaven sing the sisters in this musical version of the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg hit film. The cast is double the usual size for this 31st show and a new team of young set designers have been unleashed. And what better subject for a Catholic theatre group than nuns – the stage is brimful of be-wimpled women, along with a gaggle of gangsters and a lovesick cop.

Jorgey Scott-Learmonth and company. Pic: Tracy Graham

Jorgey Scott-Learmonth is Deloris Van Cartier, a talented nightclub singer who still can’t get her mobster boyfriend to give her a job in his seedy club. Mind, she finds she doesn’t want to be around Curtis after seeing him shoot an informant dead.

Deloris heads straight to the police station where she’s stunned to find the detective on duty is old schoolmate ‘Sweaty Eddie’ – his crush on the girl he knew as Doris Carter had him perspiring. Lots.

She’s willing to testify against Curtis (the lousy Christmas present he gave her probably helps her decision) but has to hide out until the trial date arrives. Where better to secrete her than a convent? Surely Curtis and his boys would never think to look there…

seriously sassy

Scott-Learmonth is a seriously sassy Deloris, belting out the big numbers, but she’s better when the story allows her to dial it down, be more vulnerable. The title number, Sister Act, really lets us hear what she can do.

Alex McLean and company. Pic: Tracy Graham

As would-be beau Eddie, Alex McLean is sweetness itself, and really comes into his own when he sings, his tender tone making I Could Be That Guy a highlight of the show.

And then there’s Kirsteen Brownlee as Sister Mary Robert, not yet secure in her vocation and expressing her doubts in composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater’s beautiful The Life I Never Led. Brownlee’s studied stillness and perfectly pitched voice makes for a magical moment in a show full of outstanding performances.

searingly convincing

Take Maggi Boyd’s softly spoken Mother Superior, Boyd is searingly convincing as a woman unused to having her worldview challenged and she really knows how to put across the drama of a song without getting too stagey. She gets a couple of solo numbers, the best of which, Here Within These Walls, is marred only by someone’s decision to summon the scene shifters well before she finishes the song (this happens in another number, it’s seriously distracting).

A scene from Sister Act. Pic: Tracy Graham

Then there’s Sadie Croasdale as Sister Mary Lazarus – all the nuns are Sister Mary Something or Other – the choirmistress who’s deposed when Deloris arrives; she’s got a cracking voice, but her acting is even better. There’s not a moment when she’s not doing something, whether broad or subtle, to help the narrative.

There’s more great characterisation, along with some fabulous dancing and top tonsil work, from Anna Scott’s Sister Mary Patrick, the loud, life-loving joker in the pack. And comedy turn of the night goes to Georgio Michalakis as Bruno, one of Curtis’ inept goons, with his hilarious Spanish chatter and gigolo moves.

Talking of Curtis, Luke Davidson manages mild menace – well, this is a family show – as the mobster, and does a nice job with his big number When I Find My Baby… it’s good the first time, better in the reprise with pared-down orchestration.

terrific timing

And there are more terrific numbers. So many more – Sister Act is packed to the church rafters with brilliant, smart songs that capture character, define a moment, move the story along. The OLOLYP gang – and that includes the busy, sparky ensemble – do them all justice, and also capture the comedy in Cheri and Bill Steinkellner’s script.

A chase scene that could easily become a mess on stage is masterfully presented by director David Ross with terrific timing and blocking. And the height difference between Curtis and Deloris makes for a hilarious moment.

Jorgey Scott-Learmonth and dancers. Pic: Tracy Graham

Musical director Ross Hamilton leads a tight band, with the only number in which the sound balance isn’t quite right for the player’s voice being Deloris’s opening Take Me To Heaven… it didn’t hint at just how great a production this is overall. That was on opening night, its likely this will be sorted for the remaining performances.

As for those junior set designers and painters, they’ve done a tremendous job, bringing us a church backdrop perfectly suited to the story, full of ornate panels and pseudo stained glass. So take a bow, Tracy Graham, Alistair Graham, Cameron Hepburn, Eve Johnston and Cait McCullough.

Heck, the entire backstage bunch, from lighting to costume and everything in between, should be proud of this production; OLOLYP is full of blossoming talents – they’re the answer to a theatre fan’s prayer.

Running time: two hours 30 minutes (including one interval)
The Brunton, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA. Phone booking: 0131 665 2240
Thurs 13 – Sat 15 February 2020
Evenings 7.30pm; Mat, Sat: 2pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

The Sister Act company. Pic: Tracy Graham


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