Having had a massively successful run in the West End, regional audiences have been treated to Sister Act for the past year or so now and Birmingham Hippodrome marks its final venue on this outing.
I'd already seen the unbelievable production in London, so I was incredibly excited about seeing this touring production after waiting in anticipation since it was announced. There was a definite buzz about the Birmingham Hippodrome last night and it was great to see all of the Front of House staff channelling their inner nuns by dressing in habits for the attendees’ amusement!
Playing to a packed house, Sister Act - based on a hugely popular 1992 movie - has a mass appeal and every single audience member was on board for the two and a half hour duration.
Scaled down somewhat (which was to be expected), Klara Zieglerova’s set design works well on the newly renovated Hippodrome stage. Although not necessarily having the wow factor, it is more than ample for the material; and Natasha Katz’s lighting brought out the different elements and showcased Lez Brotherston’s costumes brilliantly. The book has been altered in parts by Douglas Carter Beane and as a result is a lot funnier than I remember it being.
However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that everything amended was 100% successful. The orchestra sounded incredible under the direction of Mark Crossland but I would have liked to hear a slightly fuller sound from them. The vocals were very clear and because of this, the orchestra could have been lifted a little more to match this.
Also, I did desperately miss 'Do The Sacred Mass' from the original production and unfortunately wasn't a huge fan of the new song 'It's Good To Be A Nun'.
But overall the direction was executed nicely by Jerry Zaks and Anthony Van Laast’s choreography is superb. Sister Act needs a great cast to be able to do the book justice and fortunately we definitely have that in this production.
Cynthia Erivo does a wonderful job as Deloris Van Cartier and has flawless vocals; she makes it look effortless. As this is her first starring role and considering her young age, she gave a first class performance.
Another performer who always shines is the phenomanal Julie Atherton. Sister Mary Robert Really comes into her own after finding her confidence at the end of Act One and Atherton’s rendition of ‘The Life I Never Led’ was stunning. I have followed her career for nearly ten years and in each production she spins a web of gold.
The entire company genuinely look as if they are still thoroughly enjoying themselves even after their months of touring, which is very refreshing. Denise Black is very good as the Mother Superior and manages to draw every ounce of humour out of her lines, while Michael Starke shows his comedic side and clearly has fun playing Monsignor O’Hara - and also not forgetting Edward Baruwa playing ‘Sweaty Eddie’, whose velvet tones are always very pleasant on the ear!
Make sure you catch this tour at the Birmingham Hippodrome before it finishes on the 20th September. Bless you.