We are familiar with Whoopi Goldberg and her nunnery antics in the 1992 film comedy, Sister Act. The movie was such a hit with international audiences that it was turned into a musical for both the West End and Broadway stage ten years later. Whoopi Goldberg even had a hand in its creation! Based on Bill and Cheri Steinkellner’s book, Glenn Slater wrote the lyrics with Alan Menken composing the soulful and jazzy music.
Since 2009, the musical has been performed regularly and has succeeding in giving audiences an entertaining evening. Last night [23rd July] was the first night for The Quay Players, the first amateur dramatics group, to perform the musical at Greenwood Theatre, London Bridge. Queues of up to 250 people were forming outside of the theatre, just minutes before the show began.
A strong hold of, up to, thirty ensemble members kept a keen and excited audience waiting but once the spotlights were on, the silly gags, from night club dancers, show time nuns and ‘gay boys’, made the wait worthwhile.
Sarah Brand directed the musical, which, more or less, follows the same narrative as the film with Latino honey, Catriona Lowe as our diva, Deloris. Her vocal ability seems effortless alongside her strong stage presence, which engaged the audience from start to finish.
Caroline Smith performed as Mother Superior who gathered much empathy from the audience even though her character is meant to reflect the authority of Maggie Smith’s Reverend Mother. Convincing and heroic, it was hard to see her as an antagonistic force to Deloris’s pursuit as she gave an astounding performance. Their duet ‘Here within these walls’ was one of the many poignant moments of the show.
The baddies and their camp performing were instilled by, no less than, murdering boyfriend, Oliver Mitchell with Scott Topping, Joseph Samuel Cryan and Tom Scambler as Joey, Pablo and TJ. They provided some bizarre, yet nicely paced choreographed dances created by Emma Mitchell. There were also some stripper-like performing too, proving the camp trio could woo the convent sisters, which may sound cheesy but somehow managed to amuse the audience anyway!
The cop, Sweaty Eddie, is a favourite too, suitably performed by Will Strutt with his solo song, ‘I could be That Guy’. The tune has a similar tone to the musical number ‘Cellophane’ from Chicago, but there’s a positive injection of hope with the ensemble ripping off his clothes, twice! It’s also a great opportunity to hear the versatile score to the piece with the musicians in the pit and musical director, Mark Smith at the helm.
Catherine Bensley as the weedy-nun-turned-stratospheric vocal singer, and Julianne Palmer Mitchell as the crazy, cartwheeling sister, Mary Lazarus deserve worthy praise for their performances as well. Not forgetting smiley Ryan Govin as the golden dressed priest, Monsignor O’Hara.
Much like the film, there’s a lot to be captivated by from the ‘nun on the run’ musical. There are impressive costumes, ornate set designs and props including intricate church stain glass windows that give a fine finish to the production.
It’s a local production with a few minor directional and stage-related issues that could have been tightened. But, by the end of it, you’ll be tired from laughing and still buzzing from the catchy songs and electric stage energy. You won’t get the stuff of a West End based show, but you’ll end the night on a high.
Featured Dancer… Kelly Boylan
Featured Dancer… Sam Hare
Featured Dancer… Katrina Johnson
Featured Dancer… Shona King
Featured Dancer… Sarah O’Malley
Featured Dancer… Eleanor Strutt
Featured Dancer… Katie Underhill
Ensemble… Anil Aksay
Ensemble… Craig Holmes
Ensemble… Mari Booth Spain
Ensemble… Aine Brown
Ensemble… Susan Chandler
Ensemble… Kenneth Cheung
Ensemble… Mandy Dooley
Ensemble… Janice Edgar
Ensemble… Liz Edwards
Ensemble… Alex Finch
Ensemble… Shirley Hayward
Ensemble… Pip Hodson
Ensemble… Katy Holmes
Ensemble… Sandy Holmes
Ensemble… Kim Hooper
Ensemble… Jeanette Hopper
Ensemble… Fergus Kinnon
Ensemble… Darren Knight
Ensemble… Spencer Mitchell
Ensemble… Barry Pavey
Ensemble… Beccy Reese
Ensemble… Agata Rozpedek
Photos courtesy of Quay Players.
There are three performances left: Tonight and two showings tomorrow – July 25th.