Sister Act – The Musical: NODA review

By 20th May 2024 News & Reviews


Sister Act the Musical – Petersfield Theatre Group
Date – 17th May 2023
Director – Mary-Rose Finden
Musical Director – Gareth Baynham-Hughes
Choreographer – Scarlett Oakshott
Venue – Festival Hall, Petersfield
Type of production – Musical

Sister Act was based on the 1992 film of the same name, and it opened in the West End in 2009. Apparently, there were ‘copyright difficulties’ with using the original songs so, for the theatre, we got the benefit of all-new music and lyrics written by the talented Alan Menkin and Glenn Slater. It tells the story of Deloris van Cartier, a struggling nightclub singer, who witnesses a shooting and hides out in a convent until the trial. Unwittingly she saves the convent from closure by teaching the choir to sing in tune, although the resulting publicity leads to her giving away her hiding place. But good triumphs in the end – the convent is saved; the baddies are locked up and the audience goes home having had a great evening’s entertainment.

The magnificent set, complete with stained glass windows (designed by Andy Tubbs and constructed by an army of talented helpers) greeted us when we arrived and remained in place throughout, with equally good trucks being brought on to change locations. Until I checked the programme at the interval, I was convinced that the set was hired, so good was its quality. SM Alan Bristow and his stage crew must also be congratulated for all their hard work and swiftness with the many scene changes. Lighting by Tom Pearce was well designed and highlighted the action beautifully. The orchestra under MD Gareth Baynham-Hughes produced a great sound and was, sensibly, housed elsewhere in the theatre but it still tended to overwhelm the singers, and any underscored dialogue.

Director Mary-Rose Finden has found an amazingly talented cast and energised them into giving us a show full of colour, movement and pizazz. Not least in the talent stakes is Hannah Evans as Deloris. She gave us a really gutsy, glittering performance with masses of energy, delighting us with her singing, dancing and comedy. Wow! Mikki Magorian was a real gem of a Mother Superior – a well-judged performance that I watched with awe. Despite being overwhelmed by circumstances she remained calm and in control. Her singing too was magnificent, and her gentle comedy shone through.

The ’principal’ nuns all supported Deloris well. Fleur Ash was perfect as the innocent Sister Mary Robert, Alice Corrigan had just the right amount of quirk as Sister Mary Patrick and Mary Carmichael was nicely outrageous as Sister Mary Lazarus. All the nuns sang beautifully and moved well, executing choreographer Scarlett Oakshott’s movements to perfection.

The men may have been few in number, but they made their presence felt. Jack Mason gave a very natural performance as good cop Eddie with a nicely lyrical and expressive singing voice and a nifty line in mid-song costume changes! Mark Maclaine made a convincing gangster, Curtis, to the extent that the execution at the start was actually quite shocking. His sidekicks, Joey (Geoff Wootton), TJ (Si Crates) and Pablo (Jon Cole) worked well together, with nicely developed characters, and all excellent singers. Phil Murphy looked and sounded spot-on as Monsignor O’Hara

To costume this huge cast must have been a daunting task, so take a bow the wardrobe team of Claudia, Sophie, Lisa, Patricia, Laura, Emily, Sarah, Val and Brenda – not forgetting Jay on hair and makeup. The entire cast look magnificent, and Deloris’s costumes were the perfect contrast to the plainness of the nuns’ habits.

What a magnificent production this was, obviously the result of a huge amount of talent, hard work and dedication. The audience’s enthusiastic reactions all the way through and particularly at the end showed just how much we all enjoyed it. Bravo!

Mark Donalds
NODA SE District 10 Representative