Saturday, 6 February 2010

Caught up by a Class Act?

"No one ever does anything to please me.” So in the spirit of doing things to make others happy I concede and agree to see Sister Act, the musical. Something that the boys around me are particularly revolted by. Musicals seem to be a mystery to a large percentage of the male population, at least many of the guys I have met around my age group. Why would people just keep breaking out into song after all?

When I tell them advanced tickets cost over £60, their disgust is magnified: “For £60 you could probably get another kind of sister act, maybe even one involving twins.” The Palladium isn't too far from Soho but I am not sure the change of plan is something my mother would be too happy about.

Not a huge fan of the film, Sister Act, I'm not convinced several hours spent watching the stage version would be a Friday night well spent but reminding myself we purchased reduced last minute tickets, I am not paying and it is for the greater good of Big G's happiness, I enter the stalls.

Two and half hours later I leave slightly flabbergasted; I actually quite enjoyed it. Plot slightly hazy, I had completely forgotten the whole premise for Doloris Van Cartier being safeguarded in a convent. The weakest sequence in the musical was unfortunately the opening as Doloris (Whoopi'scharacter for those who can't remember and are actually following this!) sings in the club before witnessing her gangster boyfriend killing someone and understandably freaking out, going on the run. I don't remember Doloris looking like a complete skank in the 1992 film with a wardrobe entirely comprised of different types of conflicting animal print.

Patina Miller dumbs down Doloris' feisty character, keeping her sassy but somehow unfortunately making her less likeable. Sure Miller is full of contagious smiles, has a strong enough voice to play the lead and is convincing in her version of Doloris but something isn't quite right and I'm a traditionalist, preferring adaptations to remain faithful, unless changes are justifiable or successfully enhance a performance.

A strong cast proved their worth in solo parts with smaller characters creating cleverly choreographed comical interludes. The set list does not remain faithful to the film after copyright battles but among the weaker songs, there are both cleverly penned and catchy tunes; particular favourites being the excellent Ako Mitchell as aspiring tough cop Eddie, singing “I Would be That Guy” and the gangster trio trying to woo the nuns by hilariously crooning “Lady in the Long Black Dress”.

Sheila Hancock successfully takes on Maggie Smith as Mother Superior, touchingly singing “Within These Walls” and Katie Rowley Jones is spot on as the shy Sister Mary Robert visibly growing in confidence as the clock hands turn, before belting out “The Life I Never Lead”. As in the film, Sister Mary Patrick's light hearted warm character creates much of the humour and is faithfully portrayed by Claire Greenway.

Cleverly manoeuvred sets revealed fast changing detailed back drops and the revolving section of the stage was put to inventive use. Costumes rang true to the film and the show ended with appropriately glitzy all cast costumes, including the obligatory spangly habits and the predictable feel good ending, complete with final all-cast ensemble.

The audience clapped enthusiastically until the stage was empty with some even standing. My red hands stung by the time the lights were raised but a red warning light was also flashing - something still told me this was no five star performance.

3 ½ (Just because this is my blog and I am allowed to give halves!)

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