Review: Sister Act, Leeds Grand Theatre, 04/04/2012
When? Wednesday 4th April 2012
Where? Leeds Grand Theatre, Stalls
Who? Cynthia Erivo, Denise Black, Michael Starke, Julie Atherton, Edward Baruwa, Cavin Cornwall, Gavin Alex, Jacqueline Clarke, Tyrone Huntley, Laurie Scarth, Daniel Stockton, Deon Adams, Donovan F. Blackwood, Livvy Evans, Nolan Frederick, Grace Gardner, Allison Harding, Sarah Harlington, Natalie Hope, Shirley Jameson, Dean John-Wilson, Kadiff Kirwin, Gemma Knight Jones, Katie Lavelli, Hannah Levane, Kathryn Martin, Joel Montague, Lucie-Mae Sumner, Laura Thorogood, Dina Tree, Mark Hilton
Excerpts of this review of Sister Act are taken from my previous review published in November 2011.
The gloriously entertaining Sister Act arrived at the Leeds Grand Theatre this week; the current stop for this blockbuster tour and the latest major touring production to arrive at Leeds Grand Theatre. It is testament to the theatre’s increasingly lofty status as one of the top receiving venues in the country that it continues to secure shows of Sister Act‘s calibre. Sister Act remains a simply fabulous production. Saint or sinner, there really is something for everyone here and with a talented cast, impressive sets and some great tunes, this ‘Divine Musical Comedy’ is a must see and, if anything, is even more dazzling four months on since my last visit.
Based on the 1992 family comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg (who co-produces), Sister Act tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier (Cynthia Erivo), a jobbing club singer and wannabe star who seeks police protection after witnessing her married, mobster boyfriend (Cavin Cornwall) shooting a man dead. Placed in a convent and transformed into Sister Mary Clarence, Deloris is in the care of the strict Mother Superior (Denise Black); initially baffling her fellow nuns with her outlandish behaviour, but later transforming them into an all singing, all dancing show choir, she wins the hearts of the nuns and the audience alike.
Unusually for a popular stage adaption, one of the key staples of the film’s success, the music, is in fact entirely original to the production. Alan Menken’s upbeat 1970′s inspired score is the perfect platform for the ensuing shenanigans, and Glenn Slater’s lyrics are certainly some of the best I have heard from him.
Of the strong cast, Cynthia Erivo continues to shine as Deloris, possessing great comic timing and a fantastic voice. The spontaneous standing ovation she enjoyed was fully deserved, the appreciative Leeds Grand audience rising as one. Cavin Cornwall is a strangely likeable villain as smooth gangster Curtis Jackson, ably supported by his comic band of goons, Pablo (Gavin Alex), TJ (Tyrone Huntley) and Joey (Daniel Stockton). The four of them share some of the most hilarious and memorable moments of the evening, with Huntley particularly impressing with some strong vocals. Jacqueline Clarke also deserves a special mention as Sister Mary Lazarus, the aging hip-hopping nun, who drew huge laughs and applause from the Leeds Grand audience. The top-billed Denise Black and Michael Starke have both developed their performances since my last visit, and left a greater impression this time around.
Sat in the stalls, I marvelled at Lez Brotherston’s wonderfully showbiz costumes – I defy anyone to find a show with more sequins on stage at one time! Klara Zieglerova’s vast sets and Natascha Katz’ striking lighting help make this tour every bit as impressive as its West End predecessor – in fact, the improvements made to the book and staging actually make this tour a far more enjoyable experience which continues to delight on repeat visits.
With The Phantom of the Opera, Dirty Dancing and South Pacific still to come in an impressive 2012 line-up, the future has never looked brighter for this historic and beautiful venue.
- Rebecca the Guest Writer