“ On stage at the London Palladium „
My current reviews are all based on a trip to Oxford during the half term week, and the main purpose was to see Sister Act The Musical which left its London home at The Palladium over a year ago and has embarked on a nationwide tour. Its playing at some of the larger regional theatres and with Oxford being the closest to me I thought it was high time to get back into the Habit!
The New Theatre Oxford is quite grand for a regional theatre and in fairness on the inside it wouldn't look out of place in the West End. The auditorium is vast seating around 1300 people with a stalls section, circle and balcony. For this performance of Sister Act the balcony was closed, and the remaining stalls and circle was mainly full. I was seated to the rear of the circle and the seats were comfortable thought the legroom was small. I did have spare seats either side of me so could spread out. There is a bar area selling the usual drinks and snack in both the stalls and circle and there are ample toilet facilities which were well maintained and more importantly clean. It's roughly a ten minute walk from the station with plenty of restaurants etc in the near vicinity. For more info about the New Theatre go to www.newtheatreoxford.org.uk.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Sister Act The Musical is based on the smash hit Whoopi Goldberg Film of the same name, in which her character, lounge singer, Deloris Van Cartier, witness a mobland murder by her boyfriend, and must be placed in witness protection so she can testify against her boyfriend. She is place in a struggling convent and at finds it hard to adjust in many a comedic scene. Mother Superior is at her whit's end and puts Deloris (now known as Sister Mary Clarence) in charge of the choir. She breathes new life into the choir and in time boosts the dwindling church congregation and has them rocking in the aisles. In time Deloris is spotted by her boyfriend and has to leave the convent just before they are due to perform to the Pope. Though with a change of heart and deciding to risk it all decides to return to the convent even though she knows her boyfriend will most probably kill her. In true Hollywood comedy fashion there is a happy ending, with the convent surviving, Deloris surviving, the bad guys getting punished, but most importantly of all Deloris learns what is really true and worthwhile in life and feels part of the community within the convent.
Those who will have seen the film will know its full of great music, the musical, due to licensing difficulties has none of it and relies on a totally new score, written by Alan Menken who was responsible for many of the Disney songs. There is no need to worry though because the music is great and has a great mix of funky Mowtown inspired tunes such as "Take Me To Heaven" and "Sunday Morning Fever" and more ballady musical fayre such as the title track "Sister Act"
Those who saw the original London production will notice there are changes to the tour show and these are in line with the current Broadway production. It mainly a bit more streamline and polished though some songs have been cut like "The Sacred Mass" which makes the bar scene less enjoyable, and some have been slightly tweaked like the song where the nuns describe how they became nuns has now been rewritten as them singing about what their favourite part about being a nun is. I think the changes work well and everything seems a bit more slick.
The staging is good for a tour show, and good use is made of the limited technical aspects which come with a touring production. It does stay very true to the London production with its glitzy grand sets.
The cast were great, ex Coronation Street star, Denise Black plays and good Mother Superior though in all honesty at first I didn't like her portrayal at all, but I did warm to her in the end. Former Brookside actor Michael Starke is Monsignor O'Hara, and playing a fantastic Deloris is Cynthia Erivo. The whole cast were very strong and is full of experienced West End stars. A strong cast who performed excellently.
I really enjoyed this production. Having seen it twice in London I was looking forward to seeing it again, but also seeing the changes. If its in your area it's a must see if you like uplifting musicals. Ticket prices will vary venue to venue but generally are from £30-£50, for more information check out http://www.sisteractthemusical.com/tour/
Sister Act is currently on at the London Palladium just off Oxford Street and stars Shelia Hancock (of Over the Rainbow fame) as the Mother Superior, Patina Miller as Dolores Van Cartier and Simon Webbe as Shank.
The story goes as follows:
Dolores, a night club singer, witnesses her boyfriend Shank, a local gangster, murder someone and runs straight to the police. The police put her into hiding until the trial comes up and the only place they can think to do this is in the local convent. Dolores of course, does not fit in and soon starts to make her mark by taking the nuns out to a bar and then taking over the running of their chior. Soon the nuns are singing liking a gospel choir and the crowds are flocking in to Sunday services. The press take note and boyfriend Shank figures out where Dolores is hiding.
It's not a very strong storyline. I spent half the show wondering why the police hadn't arrested Shank the moment he was reported as having murdered someone, instead of leaving him free to hunt Dolores down. And the other half wondering why Shelia Hancock seemed to be the only one exempt from using an American accent.
These occur frequently, it is musical after all, but some of them seem to be there for their own purposes rather than to move the story forward. It's like the writers thought, 'oh, this isn't quite as long as we thought it would be, lets shove another song in'. The best songs are on the ones where the choir are singing, lets face it, that is what the story is about after all and those are the only songs in the original film (although I believe these are not the exact songs).
I watched the show with my 9 and 12 year old daughters and my 12 year old said, 'It's just a load of songs with a bit of talking in between.' She had it about right.
Having said that, she did thoroughly enjoy it, pronouncing it 'really good' at the end, which is high praise from an almost-teenager! She even wanted the soundtrack. Something I talked her out of. Listening to it live on stage is one thing, having it on in the car all the way home is something else.
As a show it is entertaining. The sets are very glitzy with lots of things moving around the stage during the songs and at the change of scenes. The costumes are quite glitzy too, especially when the nuns are 'performing'. The acting is good, although Shelia Hancock wipes the floor with everyone else. And it's funny.
The biggest disappointment was Patina Miller, who is American, but sounded like she had a fake accent and just wasn't as 'big' in the role as the character called for. I know following Whoopi Goldberg is an ask (she was in the original film) but for me I just wasn't convinced by her.
If you are thinking of seeing this show, and I haven't put you off, then you should act fast. It's finishing at the end of October. It's probably worth a look, if you can get cheap tickets and enjoy your entertainment with very little substance.
I managed to bag top price tickets to this show for £15 and to be honest I don't think it was actually worth much more than this, £30 at the max and i wouldn't pay to go again. the set of the show was pretty amazing, never before have i seen such an intricate design or so much glitz and glamour. but at the end of the day that's all it was. lots of dancing nuns in different sparkly costumes. the music wasn't as convincing as shows such as 'hairspray' or 'wicked. i'm not saying the show lacked energy for it lacked anything but. however it was just a bit samey. if you can get hold of some cheap tickets for this its worth a go but not worth paying full price tickets. i also wouldn't sit in the dress circle as it can feel as if you are looking down at the production rather than actually in it.
I am always trying to think of something a bit different or more interesting to do for my birthday. This year my group of friends and I all fancied a trip to the theatre so we picked Sister Act as none of us had seen it and I have heard some good things about the show.
I ordered the tickets from See Tickets online. If you go onto the site for Sister Act then it will direct you to here to buy tickets. The tickets I ordered were for the stalls and cost £47.50 each, there were some slightly more expensive ones nearer the front at £62.50 and there were also cheaper ones at £37.50, £25 and £17.50 in the upper circle. Tickets can also be purchased at more late notice from ticket booths around London and also from the theatre itself.
The theatre that Sister Act is being shown at is The London Palladium. This is located just off Regent Street and Oxford Street on Argyll Street. It is very easy to get to via tube or on a bus. It is very busy around that area especially on a Saturday so I would give yourself enough time to travel.
The London Palladium is a beautiful looking building that was opened in 1910. It has hosted more Royal Variety Performances than any other theatre making it one of the most famous. It is really beautiful looking inside and out. I love how traditional these theatres look as it really adds to your experience.
There are various shops and people selling programmes etc throughout the theatre. The small programmes were priced at £3.50 so I think this is quite reasonable. The shop also sold various bits of merchandise like mugs, t-shirts etc. There was a bar which was fairly empty when we went although to be fair it was a matinee performance. The prices were very expensive at £7.40 for a glass of wine but they did also have free tap water if you needed a drink.
Now for the show itself. Sister Act as many of you know is a film starring Whoopi Goldberg. The play is loosely based on the same story as the film but there are also some differences. Sister Act is the story of a woman called Deloris Van Cartier (Patina Miller) who is a bigger than life singer in bars and clubs. Her boyfriend Curtis is always promising her things but they tend to be a big let down. She dreams of being a big star one day but while leaving the club one day she accidently see's Shank (Chris Jarman) and his gang murder a man. She needs to escape but has no idea of where to go and the only place the police can think to hide her is in a convent, no-one will ever find her there or will they?
The story is a really fun one. Although it is based around a murder happening this isn't really the main part of the story. The main part is really what happens when Deloris is actually in the convent. It shows her journey and how she changes as a person and starts to put other people first. I found the first part of the story was fairly long and the second half quite quick but I enjoyed all of it. It obviously is a sort of silly story as it involves singing Nun's and lots of humour but that is what makes it such an enjoyable show.
The cast were brilliant. Patina Miller did a fantastic job as Deloris, she was a brilliant singer and dancer and also acted very well making you laugh and cry with her. Chris Jarman played the baddie well , it obviously worked as the audience all booed him at the end! Some of the smaller characters that were used for humour were amongst my favourites. These include Sister Mary Patrick (Claire Greenway) who provided lots of laughs throughout. I also liked the song that the three other bad guys did, that was one of my favourite moments of the show.
The music was good. They weren't able to use the songs that were in the film but I think the songs that were produced for the show were great and some were very catchy as well. I was singing 'take me to heaven' after I had come out. I think having it's own music enabled it to be a different from the film so that people won't compare it as much. The orchestra did a brilliant job of playing the music as well.
I was thoroughly impressed by the scenery as I always am when I go and see a West End show. The way they move it around for different scenes is always amazing and a lot of time and money has obviously gone into this. Even little details like don't walk and walk signs that change in the background make it seem like you are really there. The costumes were also great especially the ones that changed from one costume to another without you even noticing. I thought that was very clever.
Overall Sister Act was a great show that was very professional and provided fun and laughter as well as a few more serious moments. I would definitely recommend it to others.