“Sister Act” at Stoke’s Regent Theatre is a jubilant and spirited production that brings to life the cherished tale of friendship, sisterhood, and the power of music. While it showcases remarkable performances and moments of sheer brilliance, it also grapples with certain challenges in its execution.
Landi Oshinowo leads the cast as Deloris Van Cartier, and her performance is nothing short of excellent. Oshinowo’s portrayal of the disco diva is simply stunning, marked by her soaring vocals and captivating stage presence. She embodies the character with unparalleled finesse, making Deloris a joy to watch. One of the standout moments of the show is Oshinowo’s rendition of ‘Fabulous, Baby!,’ where her vocals reach sublime heights, leaving the audience in awe. Her exceptional talent elevates the entire production, and she unquestionably shines as the superstar of the show.
Lizzie Bea’s portrayal of Sister Mary Robert is exceptional. Her stunning vocals and emotional depth shine through, making her rendition of the character a true standout. Bea’s portrayal is characterised by a profound sense of growth and self-discovery, and her performance, particularly during ‘The Life I Never Led,’ is a moment of pure theatrical magic.
Alfie Parker, in the role of Eddie Souther, delivers a great performance. His acting is strong, and his vocals are brilliant, adding depth to the character. Parker’s contribution to the show is commendable, and he embodies the essence of Eddie with conviction.
Lesley Joseph takes on the role of Mother Superior and brings her own unique charm to the character. Joseph infuses the character with humour and depth, delivering some memorable comedic moments. Her performance adds layers to Mother Superior, making her more than just a stern figure but a multifaceted character who plays a pivotal role in the story.
The ensemble cast works tirelessly to create a well-rounded and engaging ensemble. Their collective effort is characterised by strong vocals and well-executed supporting roles. They play an integral part in bringing the world of the convent and its inhabitants to life, contributing significantly to the overall success of the production.
The set design (Morgan Large), while grand and visually striking at times, faces challenges. It occasionally appears overly expansive, leaving certain areas feeling empty and lacking in detail. However, there are moments when the set shines, for example during the number ‘Sister Act’, featuring visually captivating elements that transport the audience into the world of the story.
The lighting design (Tim Mitchell) is a noteworthy aspect of the production. It effectively enhances the visual dynamics of the show, creating a vibrant atmosphere that complements the story’s energy. There is some excellent utilisation of the set’s concentric circles to illuminate certain scenes and the curtain call. However, inconsistencies in character lighting can be distracting and disrupt the immersion.
Costumes (Morgan Large) play a pivotal role in enhancing the show’s appeal. They effectively reflect the characters’ personalities and the evolving tone of the production. The glittery costumes towards the end of the show are particularly eye-catching, contributing to the overall visual spectacle and capturing the disco era’s essence. There are some particularly impressive reveals (no spoilers here!) which are a welcomed costume addition.
Bill Buckhurst’s direction has moments of static staging, and transitions between scenes do not always flow organically. An over-reliance on the moving back wall can occasionally divert attention. Alistair David’s choreography, when used, adds energy and flair to the performance, with dance sequences that elevate the show’s entertainment value. However, it is not always used which seems like a missed opportunity with the score of this musical.
In summary, “Sister Act” at Stoke’s Regent Theatre, while not without its challenges, is a production that captures the heart of the original movie whilst offering its own take on the narrative. Landi Oshinowo’s exceptional performance as Deloris Van Cartier and the strong portrayals by the cast members make this show a must-see. The creative elements, including costumes, lighting, and set design, contribute to the overall appeal, although some areas could benefit from refinement. Despite its imperfections, the production delivers moments of sheer joy and entertainment, making it a worthwhile experience for fans of the classic story.
Sister Act plays at the Regent Theatre until Saturday 30th September 2023 before continuing its tour. Tickets available for Stoke and other tour dates here.