It’s punchy. It’s soul-stirring. And there’s enough musical praise to raise the roof of Perth Theatre.
Based on the hit movie of the same name, ‘Sister Act’ the Musical opened in the West End nearly a decade ago and this week, is brought to Perth Theatre by Perth Amateur Operatic Society (PAOS).
The musical draws us into the life of Deloris Van Cartier, a nightclub singer dreaming of her big showbiz break. After witnessing a murder, Deloris is placed under witness protection and given refuge from gangsters in the last place you’d look for her – a convent. As the diva struggles to leave old habits behind and conform with religious life, Deloris’ zest for life transforms the musical spirit of the convent choir, bringing a dose of disco that rocks their souls.
Directed by Maximilian Clay, this PAOS production boasts a local cast bursting with talent and energy. Kirsty Watson gives an outstanding vocal performance as Deloris, a role known for Whoopi Goldberg’s exuberant portrayal in the original film. The opening nightclub scene sees Deloris joined by ‘Tina and Michelle’, played by Gemma Stewart and Nicola Hay, as two sequined sidekicks who set the sparkle for the rest of the show.
Ms Watson brings a strong female lead with attitude. The only person who can tame her, and does so with the perfect balance of poise, tenderness and moments of brilliant sarcasm, is Mother Superior, played by Anne Kemp.
The chorus of nuns bring non-stop joyful musical praise. Sarah Cowmeadow delivers a first-class performance as the endearing Sister Mary Robert who transforms as she finds her inner voice. Bekki Mackenzie brings boundless spiritual energy as Sister Mary Patrick and Jane Taylor perfects the devout Sister Mary Lazarus. Other named sisters played by Anna Jellye and Susan Kirkham and the chorus of nuns deliver an abundance of personality and charisma. The choreography by Robyn Goodfellow ensures plenty of boogie and high energy.
This show offers great original music written by Alan Menken. The chorus number ‘Raise Your Voice’ is fantastically uplifting and the excitement of the nuns is infectious. From disco praise to poignant moments of fellowship between the sisters, there’s a real ‘girl power’ feel to this show that you just can’t help being moved by.
Although female-dominated, there are several principal parts for the gents. Gavin Russell gives a determined performance as Deloris’ gangster boyfriend, Curtis, while Niall Robertson’s transformation from solemn priest to evangelistic pastor in the role of Monsignor O’Hara offers a real laugh-out-loud moment. Owen Thomson, as Eddie Souther, Chief of Police, comes into his own with a very memorable solo that showcases an impressive voice. Also of mention are the three comical gangster sidekicks who are a cross between The Three Stooges and the Bee Gees; you need to see it to believe it.
The production is slick, dynamic and the action accumulative. The set is very effective, shifting between glitter balls and stained glass windows to reflect the tension between the two parts of Deloris’ life.
A special mention must be made to the orchestra and all-round high quality of the music under the direction of Joe Whiteman. The tight, 9-piece orchestra delivers a rich variety and blend of sounds to support a range of musical genres.
This is a hugely enjoyable, lively and witty production and it is a joy to see PAOS return to Perth Theatre. If you want to feel the disco buzz and rejuvenate your soul, then get your Hallelujahs ready and your tickets bought quickly, as this show will sell out.
‘Sister Act’ runs every evening until Saturday 14 April at 7.30pm (with a matinee performance on Saturday afternoon, 2pm). Tickets available from Horsecross.
Words by Helen MacKinnon, images by local freelance photographer, Fraser Band.
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