Sister Act NODA Review
National Operatic & Dramatic Association
Society : MAOS
Production : Sister Act
Date : 14th – 17th March 2018
Venue : The Shelley Theatre, Marlow
Report by : Susan Boobyer-Pickles
Thank you for inviting NODA to review your show and the welcome from Heather, Katy and Jo it was good to see you all again. Also welcoming the guests were some of the nuns who formed the additional choir – a nice touch. As we entered the auditorium the closed set was bathed in a soft blue light and lovely choral music really set the scene – we were all excited as the choir took their seats on stage left.
Lighting was well done by Andrew Medhurst and his team of operators. The stage was well lit and actors lit when needed. The plot was nicely augmented by some special effects such as the star cloth, glitter ball and the projected cross. There were some nice jazzy lights for the start of Act 2 and the end of show sequences really left us all on a high.
Note: this is a joined up production issue and it would have been better if Benny could have left the stage in a blackout – always tricky to co-ordinate with limited technical rehearsal time – not sure if coms were used but a thought for the future.
Sound, provided by Stephen Medhurst and Lexi Jackson-Morrissey, must have been a challenge with so many radio mic’s being used. There were a few start of show issues but these sorted themselves out quite quickly. The echo effect used for the nunnery “acoustics” was a nice touch but at first I thought it was a problem but realised it was an effect – maybe it just went on a bit too long. Anyway the attention to detail in these small points is appreciated. The balance between actors and music was well done.
The small band created an excellent musical backdrop so well done to all – the overall sound was not too loud but the actors had to work hard to maintain a good balance. Jon Brooks as the MD had clearly worked very hard coaching the cast as musically this show was of a high standard and very pleasing throughout. I especially liked the choral back-up by the Heavenly Choir to some of the main numbers which created a lovely ambience, especially to those quiet numbers which was so sympathetic to the idea that we were in a convent within a rock musical.
Choreography for the nuns was sympathetic to their characters and their large number! Simple and well executed movement was appropriate with some good set pieces like the wheel. I particularly enjoyed “Take me to Heaven” at the end of Act 1. In the other numbers each character had choreography that was within their capability which was good to see. The highlights were “Lady in the long black dress”, “I could be that guy”, the dancers in “Fabulous Baby” dream sequence and the opening “Take me to Heaven” by Delores, Michelle and Tina. Well done Jessyca Lawrie.
Costumes were all very well-conceived by Jacky Webb and Katy Mitchell. It does not say in the programme if the nuns/clerical outfits were made in house or hired. Either way they were all fabulous, fitted well and created the correct Nun look and the glittery derivatives in Gold/Hearts and Silver really were stunning – the Monsignor looked equally fabulous. The other characters were also dressed appropriately and I loved the dancers pink outfits which created a real difference to the other colours used in the show. The main point for me was that the PJ’s in some cases were a bit too modern, many were demure in muted colours - and I think nearly all had their head covered by a scarf which was good, although white caps would have been better. On the night I attended the middle layer of Eddies transformation could be seen from the start. The 3 boys looked good especially Pablo.
I am guessing that make-up was all done by the cast although it may have been a directorial decision for Delores and the girls to not have glamour make-up at the start. I can appreciate that it’s hard to quickly remove make-up but it could have been toned down over time for the two girls; and I honestly believe it would have been better for Delores to be more glamorously portrayed. A small point but within a really good production small points do stick out more.
The set was simply done with black tabs and the start cloth at the back. In this production were there are a prodigious number of different scenes the simple props were brought on in a co-ordinated way by the cast and crew. Where these were longer and/or visible a nice selection of incidental music was used. Nothing seemed laboured or over long so well done all in managing this aspect.
Deloris (Lucy Newell)
A full on and demanding role which requires physical and vocal stamina. Lucy has a fabulous vocal and certainly looked the part as the brash would be nightclub singer and opened the show with the high energy “Take me to heaven” which was performed very well. Lucy gave Deloris a harsh accent but managed to control it so we could still hear and understand the dialogue. I particularly liked the characterisation of Deloris the club singer and the slight softening in Act 1 as the nun persona is taken on. In Act 2 there was a subtle change in characterisation especially in “Fabulous Baby” which was very moving. A lovely interaction with the nuns as a whole and with Mother Superior in particular. A great all round performance.
Deloris was backed up well in the opening scene by Sam Cleaver and Helen Denham as Michelle and Tina who sang and moved very well. Dialogue was delivered with good timing. Well done ladies.
Mother Superior (Sally Williamson)
The head of the convent and all the responsibility that comes with such a position is not easy role; especially when wearing a habit where only the face, voice and the stance convey the emotions. Sally was very sweet but could have projected a little more and tried to convey the worldly wise and experienced characteristics that the mother superior would have. Sally sung very beautifully and in the songs the character came out more than in the dialogue. “Within these wall” was very believable and “Haven’t got a prayer” sung with sincere passion. Due to the softer approach to the role I think some of the comedy was sadly lost. Overall a nice performance and good interaction with the nuns, Deloris and the Monsignor.
Monsignor O’Hara (Charles Padley)
I enjoyed this character immensely and Charles had a good look and overall character. A very believable counter to the Mother Superior. Very good expression to the “good choir” and very joyful at the end of Act 1. Charles delivered his lines very well in the Act 2 opening and played the comedy well. It was unfortunate that he was a bit masked by the curtain in the confessional scene but really good job throughout.
Eddie Souther (Nick Blanks)
Nicely delivered characterisation of the self-conscious policeman – more visible sweaty patches would have enhanced the character. Got the audience on side right from the start by being brave and always trying to do the right thing. Really good singing in accent and a great performance in “I could be that guy”. Not always tuneful but Nick’s open and honest delivery won the day. It was particularly nice to see the relationship between Eddie and Deloris which was not overstated.
Curtis Jackson (Paul Frohnsdorf-Harris)
Curtis is the baddie of the piece and I just think Paul looked and acted too nice; perhaps the choice of rather english business suit and tie were a bit restrained. Overall the character came across as more Jazz singer than Baddie. A nice rendition of “When I find my baby” with good stagecraft and reacted well to his 3 stooges.
Joey (Ben McLaclan)
TJ (George Mellor)
Pablo (Gareth Wells)
Three nice characterisations which were all very different as pretty incompetent thugs!! Ben seemed a little less confident than the other two and for the future think about projection of the dialogue and injecting a little light and shade into the delivery. Movement in “When I find my baby” was a bit wobbly but I totally commend you for giving it all in “Black dress”. George was very confident and a great mover in the two numbers. A little more projection would be good but characterisation was believable and you certainly looked the part. Gareth as Pablo has the comedy which was delivered very well. Obviously had great fun with the part playing up to the flamboyant character with a fab accent and good moves in the two numbers. Very confident performance but then you would have to be to get away with those sleeves. Well done all three a nice triple act.
Sister Mary Robert (Hayley Turay)
Sister Mary Patrick (Karen Hemingway)
Sister Mary Lazarus (Jacqui Pirie)
Again three really lovely characterisations each one playing their part very well. Hayley was nicely indecisive but really transformed when she found her voice. Her song “The life I nearly led” was beautifully performed and quite heart wrenching. Karen was loud, smiley and full of fun, a more comedic role which Karen portrayed perfectly. Jacqui as the slightly older nun of the three was wonderfully chippy and delivered her rap section with gusto. All there sang and delivered their dialogue really well.
The Nuns and the Ensemble
The wonderful thing about Sister Act is you have a mass of women who are basically unrecognisable in their habits and so they do become one powerful group of love, fun and sincerity which really is at the heart of this show. All of them worked well together, the movement was co-ordinated, they were bright, exuberated, engaged and smiling, and where they had to manage props they did this as well. The one thing I liked a lot was that even when the choir becomes a rocking success at the heart they were still a lovely group of nuns each with their own character. Individual lines by those that did not have radio mics were a little lost so in the future just be aware of this and speak/sing with confidence. The choral singing was really excellent and all the group numbers had me really entranced. The other character roles were all played well and I especially enjoyed the tramps in Eddie’s number.
I really enjoyed the whole production and all the audience members, laughed and giggled in their seats and I am sure they had a great evening like I did. The interval music choices were good and it was nice to hear the iconic number form the movie.
Thank you and good luck with your concert and Forbidden Planet next year.
Susan Boobyer-Pickles (and Terry Hunt)
Regional Representatives, London District 14