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Sister Act at Theatre Royal Brighton | Review

Sister Act, the musical, first seen in 2006, is based on the 1992 Hollywood movie of the same name with completely new music composed by Alan Menken, much of it in Motown style, and new dialogue by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, who wrote several episodes of the TV series, MASH, as is evident from the second half of Sister Act.

SISTER ACT. Company. Photo Mark Senior.
SISTER ACT. Company. Photo Mark Senior.

The plot is wafer thin, in fact almost disappearing after the interval! Deloris (Landi Oshinowo), a would-be singer, witnesses a murder committed by her boyfriend Curtis (Ian Gareth-Jones). When she tells a police officer, Eddie (Alfie Parker), he realises that her life is in danger and persuades the mother superior (Kate Powell) of the local nunnery to hide her dressed as a nun, where she vastly improves the standard of the singing!

In a truly hard-working ensemble cast of twenty, Landi Oshinowo is quite simply superb in every respect. She possesses a gorgeous well-produced voice and is not only able to belt out the numbers that call for it, she can also rein back her voice and larger-than-life personality to produce some lovely sounds in the quieter songs. Her diction is crystal clear with her dialogue bringing out all the humour therein. She works as a member of the team rather than a “star” and consequently raises the level of her performance and others. Oshinowo has that rare quality: charisma – much needed as she is on stage for most of the evening.

Gareth-Jones is effective as boyfriend Curtis, having a sense of the style required and Parker makes the most of the role of Eddie, his best moments being his costume changes! You will have to see the show to understand what I mean! He also has a light tenor singing voice – in fact, both the solo and ensemble singing are stylish and of a very high standard throughout.

Kate Powell has great energy as Mother Superior, but for some reason is the only member of the cast to speak and sing in an English accent rather than American – particularly noticeable as she has a long speech at the start of Act One. She also looks far too young to be a Mother Superior! But perhaps that is the idea!

Other members of the ensemble who particularly impress are Ceris Hine as Sister Mary Martin of Tours and Eloise Runnette as Sister Mary Robert, but, as I have indicated above, this is a cast in which there are no weak links. All have tremendous energy and enthusiasm in role, and the show does not in any way look as if it has been touring since June 2022! In fact, this enthusiasm is infectious. especially when His Holiness the Pope appears in Act Two!

It is a shame that, since the tour began, some elements of Bill Buckhurst’s production have been simplified: for example, Deloris, unable to hail a taxi, no longer arrives at the police station in a rickshaw style ‘pedicab’!!

At times the rather pedestrian dialogue makes the actors work too hard to get any laughs, and Morgan Large’s set, clearly designed for ease of touring, is rather bleak and unimaginative but the cast rise above these difficulties, aided by a superb eight-piece pit band under Tom Slade, and give the audience a true night to remember. This is a ‘feel good’ show and those involved on stage put 101% effort into ensuring that everyone goes home, even if not humming the tunes, then with a broad smile on their face!

Another production of SISTER ACT is soon to open in London with a few “starry” names, but if I were you I would try to see Landi Oshinowo and company in THIS production at Theatre Royal Brighton – I do not think you will regret it!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Don’t miss this eagerly anticipated 2023 Olivier Award-nominated production of the Broadway and UK smash hit musical Sister Act.

Disco diva Deloris’ life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. Placed under protective custody she is hidden in the one place she shouldn’t be found – a convent! Encouraged to help the struggling choir, she helps her fellow sisters find their true voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own.

Featuring original music by Tony® and 8-time Oscar® award-winner Alan Menken (Disney’s Aladdin, Enchanted) and songs inspired by Motown, soul and disco, this heavenly musical is joyous and uplifting in equal measures. A musical sent from above, Sister Act is the brilliant, must-see show which raises the spirits and warms the soul time after time.

Sister Act is at Theatre Royal Brighton from Monday 11th March, 2024 to Saturday 16th March, 2024.

View all shows booking now at Theatre Royal Brighton.

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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