Theatre Review: Sister Act @ The Buxton Opera House

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Photo Mark Senio
Photo Mark Senio

Sister Act – The Musical continued its highly successful run this week with a stopover at Buxton Opera House and delivered this famous slice of musical theatre to perfection.

The audience members left the auditorium with huge smiles on their faces while expressing their delight at the performance that they had just witnessed. This should delight anyone connected with this production as it delivered a show that is fun with a big juicy capital F.

Deloris Van Cartier (Landi Oshinowo), is a wannabe diva who is relying on her boyfriend – the married gangster Curtis Jackson (Ian Gareth-Jones) – to finance her next steps on the route to stardom. Disappointed by his failure to do so and enraged by a poor choice of Christmas present, Deloris decides to leave but becomes an unwitting witness to a murder committed by her lover.

Our heroine escapes to the police and is put in the care of Eddie Souther (Alfie Parker) – a former school friend. Eddie has had a less than glittering career and is disparagingly known as Steady Eddie but deep inside he has ambitions to break out of his shell.

Souther’s solution to Van Cartier’s predicament is to hide her away in the local convent where she has to pose as a nun. The run-down building that becomes her temporary home is close to collapse and closure and Deloris is reluctantly accepted into the order by the Mother Superior (Wendi Peters – well-known as Cilla Battersby from Coronation Street) but is more warmly accepted by Monsignor O’Hara (Philip Arran).

Despite her initial reluctance to joining the convent, Deloris takes pride in transforming the tuneless choir and rapidly becomes a friend to the meek and mild Sister Mary Robert (Eloise Runnette) and her fellow Sisters that include the quirky Lazarus (Julie Stark) and Patrick (Isabel Canning).

A success with her fellow sisters but will the hopeful cabaret star earn the approval of the Mother Superior and will she escape her murderous ex?

The delight in seeing the same production twice in its long run is being able to witness its evolution and how new cast members bring their own magic to the show.

There are some key characters who have been playing their parts throughout Sister Act’s journey. Oshinowo had huge shoes to fill as she portrays Deloris but she is magnificent in her role with a fabulous voice and amazing stage presence. If she ever decides to hang up her habit then her successor will have a hard task to match her exuberance and abilities. She may have followed some arguably bigger names into the part but she would give any other actor a run for their money as the best Deloris in the business. Gareth-Jones is the consummate pantomime villain and the likeable Parker is excellent as the lovable cop. Rugby’s loss is definitely musical theatre’s gain – check his back story.

There are two main alterations to the cast that I saw back in September. Peters was making her debut appearance as the Mother Superior and there may have been some apprehension as to her abilities on the musical stage given that most of the patrons would only have seen her on screen in dramas. However, a glance at her CV reveals that she has much that is musical in her background. Certainly, her opening number evidenced a good voice and the ability to deliver with humour. Peters was superior in every way.

The other newcomer is Runnette who is making her professional debut in the production. She would appear to have a huge future in the business as she brought her character to life with a superb singing voice. Her rendition of “The Life I Never Led” is beautifully delivered and brings a genuine lump to the throat.

With some neat choreography from Alistair David, an excellent orchestra under the direction of Tom Slade, a score that takes everyone back to the Philly era and gorgeous costumes designed by Morgan Large, Director Bill Buckhurst can be rightfully proud of his work which is definitely second to nun!!

If you want a hugely entertaining evening that will have you grinning from ear to ear then Sister Act is probably the answer to your prayers. And if you are ever told “Get thee to a nunnery” just ensure that you join the Sisters of Perpetual Sorrow. It will be absolutely divine.

Sister Act – The Musical continues at Buxton Opera House until Saturday June 1st and has a running time of approximately 2 hours 40 minutes including interval. For ticket details contact 01298 72190