Review: Sister Act at the Sunderland Empire
Alexandra Burke was fabulous in Sister Act on the opening night at the Sunderland Empire
Having run into trouble with her gangster boyfriend Curtis (Aaron Lee Lambert) by witnessing him murder an informant, Deloris takes cover in a convent where she brings a new lease of life to the nuns’ simple existence, much to the fury of her watcher Mother Superior (Karen Mann), who is also under stress as the convent is threatened with closure.
Stripped of her worldly possessions (purple knee-high boots and a miniskirt) and, more importantly for the disco diva, food and alcohol, she leads the nuns to temptation by sneaking out to a local bar, where she comes a little to close to her gangster boyfriend a cronies.
Safely back in the convent (having been ticked off by Mother Superior for putting the sisters in danger), she is given the job of teaching the out-of-tune choir to sing... a tough task for anyone! This is where the fun begins. Hearing a stage full of nuns scream and screech their way through gospel song Raise Your Voice is not good for anyone’s ears, but it does have great comic value. There were ripples of laughter through the audience. In contrast hearing Alexandra Burke belt out gospel songs was music to my ears. Her raspy, distinctive vocals sounded strong and empowering, just what the nuns needed... a vocal coach with sass.
Under the guidance of Deloris, known to the other nuns as Sister Mary Clarence, the sisters are transformed into a choir of heavenly angels... but with this comes more danger. In an attempt to help save the convent the nuns stage a fundraising event, and Deloris is spotted on TV by Curtis who’s set out to kill her.
Compared to the film, the spotlight was more on the couple’s dark relationship. I was surprised by an unnecessary scene which saw Curtis and crew act out taking class A drugs, I’d have preferred to hear the sisters sing a few more songs.
Directed by Craig Revel Horwood the choreography was as lively as the singing. Actor-musicians meant the cast played instruments on stage too including an accordion, tambourine and flute to name just a few, helping to bring alive the original music by Tony and eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken.
With the help from local cop ‘Sweaty Eddie’, who has had a crush on Deloris since their childhood days, she is finally safe when villain Curtis is caught. Although her time at the convent is up her faith sees her return to help stage a special performance for the Pope, which helps the sisters save the convent from closure. Hallelujah.
Sister Act runs at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday 10 September. For more information click here.