Tuesday, 17 November 2015

"Sister Act" by ESNA
Loughborough Town Hall.

It's wonderful when you can use history to look forward to something. Let me explain.I could have written this review of "Sister Act" without even seeing it because of history. I knew the orchestra would be good because I knew from past experience just how good Jon Orton is. He was musical director for the wonderfully crisp, clear sounding orchestra for "Sister Act".

I knew the lighting would be excellent because of the legend of lighting Tom Mowat was in charge. Having seen many productions where Tom has been at the lighting helm, I had every confidence that this show would be spectacular. And I was right.

So, we have the sound and light sorted, now for the cast. The lead role of Deloris Van Cartier is played by the uber talented and incredibly gorgeous Monique Henry. Revisiting the role she played at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, Monique lived up to, yet again, my every expectation in being just as brilliant as I knew she would be. She sizzled with sass, And that amazing voice was as amazing as ever. And what wonderful costumes! The final costume will take your breath away.

For those who don't know the story of "Sister Act", here's a teaser.... Deloris is a club singer who witnesses her boyfriend, Curtis, commit a murder. She runs away to the police and thanks to her old college friend who is a policeman, Eddie aka "sweaty Eddie", he hides her within a nunnery, and that's where the fun really starts when she starts to transform the once tone deaf nun's choir into gospel glory.

There are some brilliant performances here. Curtis is played by Jason Lang and is a really natural swagger about him, maybe playing nasty comes as second nature to him, who knows? What i do know though is that he has a great set of vocals on him. Just listen to him squeeze out every bit of malicious intent out of "When I Find My Baby".

His henchmen TJ (Benjamin Hardy), Joey (John Smith) and Pablo (Jarrod Makin) are a comedy triple delight. their tribute to 70's slow disco "Lady In The Long Black Dress" is a lovely send up of songs like "Float On" by The Floaters. Brilliant comedy song from the trio.

Eddie was played by Sam Hutchinson, and I was saying afterwards that Sam has a wonderful singing voice that encapsulates the 70's smooth soul era perfectly. He has a very contemporary vocal style which was very easy to listen to. A natural singer. Great version of "I Could Be That Guy".

And so to the nuns. Led by Mother Superior, Margaret Fardell, the staid head who, by the end of the play warms nicely towards Deloris, bringing out the human side of the nun.

One actor who has a voice that sent shivers down my back tonight was Susan Pascoe (Sister Mary Robert). her version of "The Life I Never Led" was just stunning and especially that long note at the end. So pure and so powerful is her voice.I loved it.

And for comedy you would have to go a long way to beat Sister Mary Lazarus. Played by Liz Bristowe, she rocked and rapped her way through some rollicking gospel stylied songs, drawing a round of applause immediately after her rap, which was half way through the song.

And then there was the lovely Claire Malpas who played Sister Mary Patrick, another wonderfully fresh performance.

One other smaller but equally comical role was from Neil Ledward who played the ever excitable,but oh so trendy Monsignor O'Hara, who ended up looking more like one of the Beastie Boys with all that gold and bling!

A wonderful ensemble who fleshed the show and sound out wonderfully well to create a big,brassy and brilliant backing to the show.

Only the sound, or at times lack of it from the microphones plagued the show, but this was opening night and these things happen and there's not a lot you can do if things like this go wrong. After all, it must be a nightmare to mic up 30 plus singers and expect it all to go to plan on day one.

The whole group worked well together and this showed when one of the microphones failed when a son was being sung and Jon, conducting the orchestra seemed to pull the volume down a notch to make it easier for us to hear. A conductor who is in tune with what's going on, on stage. Not many in the audience may have noticed that but I did.

"Sister Act" is a wonderful, warm, happy show and in the hands of Esna Players, a massive hit to add to their already vast repertoire of successful shows.

"Sister Act" is on at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 21 November 2015, but don't hang around because Tuesday night was practically full up.

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