Theatre Review: Sister Act

Charlotte Gregory as Mother Superior, Vivienne Ekwulugo as Deloris van Cartier, Andrea Campusano as

Charlotte Gregory as Mother Superior, Vivienne Ekwulugo as Deloris van Cartier, Andrea Campusano as Sister Mary Patrick, Mary Watkinson as Sister Mary Lazarus and Lizzie Tatton as Sister Mary Robert in SAMTC's forthcoming production of Sister Act - Credit: Archant

If you only see one show between now and the end of the year - and that includes panto - make sure it is the cracking production of Sister Act being performed by St Albans Musical Theatre Company (SAMTC) at the Alban Arena this week.

Lizzie Tatton as Sister Mary Robert, Charlotte Gregory as Mother Superior, Mary Watkinson as Sister

Lizzie Tatton as Sister Mary Robert, Charlotte Gregory as Mother Superior, Mary Watkinson as Sister Mary Lazarus, Andrea Campusano as Sister Mary Patrick and Vivienne Ekwulugo as Deloris van Cartier in Sister Act - Credit: Archant

The Whoopi Goldberg movie adapted for the stage is, if anything, better than the big screen version and SAMTC have done it proud with the mix of a great cast, a sensational orchestra and inspired choreography.

It opened on Tuesday night (8) to a near-full Arena and finished with a well-deserved standing ovation from an audience who clearly did not want the show to end.

All the misery for those who had struggled to get to the theatre through gridlocked St Albans traffic was forgotten as the Arena stage was converted into a church for much of the show.

The story of Deloris Van Cartier, the disco diva who is put in protective custody in a convent when she witnesses a murder, is well-known.

The key role of course is Deloris herself and SAMTC could not have found a better performer to play her than the brilliant Vivienne Ekwulugo. She was mesmerising from her first appearance looking like real-life disco diva Donna Summer to her finale in nun’s habit - a choice made by her not by the police protecting her.

Not only does Vivienne have an amazing voice but also excellent acting ability and her wisecracking comments were timed to perfection. The applause which greeted her every song was richly deserved.

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But no performer is an island and Vivienne had very strong support with stand-out performances from Charlotte Gregory as Mother Superior, first in despair at her rogue nun and then throwing herself in front of her when Deloris is threatened with a gun, Justin Jeffreys as the lovelorn police officer ‘Sweaty’ Eddie and Julian Evans as Deloris’s ex-lover Curtis.

The real comic element came in the shape of Curtis’s three hopeless henchmen, Joey, Pablo and TJ, aka Adam Feighoney, Patrick Rufey and Oliver Sutton-Izzard. Their rendition of Lady in the Long Black Dress was hilarious and one of the high spots of Act Two.

And then there were the nuns - all of different shapes and sizes but game for demonstrating dancing skills as well as showcasing fine singing voices.

Lizzie Tatton was particularly impressive as Sister Mary Robert, the nun whose love of God is matched by her love of Deloris.

There was just one jarring moment in Tuesday night’s performance and that was the noise of scenery being moved while Deloris and Mother Superior were moving towards making their peace. But SAMTC are so professional an amateur company that I am sure that has been ironed out already.

Sister Act is directed by Alan Cox who was behind last year’s acclaimed show Hairspray. Unsurprisingly, SAMTC have already lined him up for next year’s production of West Side Story - they would have been mad not to have done so.

And if this show does not win SAMTC yet another award, I’ll eat my wimple.

Sister Act runs until Saturday with performances at 7.45pm each evening and a Saturday matinee. Remaining tickets are available from the Arena box office on 01727 844488.

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