Thursday, 29 August 2019

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: Sister Act - Theatre Royal, Wakefield.

As I sat in my chair this evening, in the beautiful, and intimate Theatre Royal, a small voice behind me asked their father what the show was about, and he explained it beautifully. "A Lady, Deloris Van Cartier, sees something she’s not supposed to see, and the police put her into a witness protection programme and hide her in a convent, where she must act as a nun. She ends up running the choir there and they become amazing." A pretty good summary if you ask me.

I love this show, but had never seen it performed by a youth theatre group before; I held my breath, not knowing what standard to expect from Wakefield Youth Musical Theatre Company, but boy, how I was mistaken! They were fabulous baby!

The band kicked off and we were away, into a nightclub, and the show had begun. There was a glitter ball spinning, lights flashing and the band were really popping. We were introduced to our very own Deloris, Antonia Opare-Amo, a club singer, and her gangster boyfriend, Curtis, (Dan Romano), who went on to shoot one of his mob, just as Deloris walked in. She ran to the police, where her high school chum, Sweaty Eddie, (Benjamin Raynard) put her into a witness protection, at a Philadelphia convent, under the supervision of the rather sceptical Mother Superior, (Kaytie-Jo Genty). As we entered the convent, a troop of nuns, (nearly 40 of them!) walked on, singing hilariously in any key, at any pitch, and as high as they could, then left through the opposite side of the stage. The nuns came to dinner, and Deloris, was introduced to some more of the principals, Sister Mary Robert, (Tilly Ducker) and Sister Mary Patrick, (Emma Chapman). Deloris broke the rules of the convent, and Mother Superior asked for her to be removed from the convent but was shot down. So, Mother Superior makes her join the choir, where she immediately stands out, due to her singing profession. Sister Mary Lazarus, (Jessica Logan) reluctantly gave up the reigns of the choir, and the transformation began.

Deloris teaches the choir her hit song, ‘Raise Your Voice’ helping the choir to sing in amazing harmony, and brings the young naïve Sister Mary Robert out of her shell, blossoming into an incredible singer. This performance lifts the roof of the church, bringing in new faces to the ever doomed church, and they then segue into her theme song, ‘Take Me To Heaven’ which is performed with such power and energy from the whole cast, it leads us into the interval in a great way.

The second act opens at a very funny confessions session, between Monsignor O’Hara, (James Bradshaw) an Irish Priest, Mother Superior and Deloris, followed by mass, where the choir perform once again. After which, O’Hara announces to Deloris and the choir that they are to perform for the Pope. The direction that Deloris has taken the choir irks Mother Superior somewhat, and contacts Officer Eddie to have Deloris removed. Following a news report from the church, Curtis and his mob, who have been on the hunt for Deloris the whole time, now knew exactly where to find her, and even though she had moved into Officer Eddies apartment, she had travelled back, to sing with her Sisters. The mobsters perform a comedy chase scene, which ends with Sister Mary Robert in a headlock with Curtis pointing a gun at her head. Deloris talks him out of shooting, but he then turns his attention to her, and just as he is counting down to shoot her, from nowhere, Officer Eddie shoots Curtis in the arm, and relieves the whole situation, arresting Curtis and putting him away for good. The choir then perform for the Pope, a brilliant finale, 'Spread The Love Around', with a reprise of 'Raise Your Voice', and 'Take Me To Heaven'.

I was sitting in my seat at the end of this wonderful show and the dear lady next to me turned and said, “That was wonderful wasn’t it.” And all I can say is, "Yes, it was fabulous baby, fabulous".

Wakefield Youth Musical Theatre have done an incredibly professional job here. And they can all be immensely proud of the show they have put together. Every voice that was singing was in tune, it was coming from a smiling face, and it was just wonderful to see so many young people who are so very talented in the theatre. I think it's fair to say, the future of theatre is in safe hands if these youngsters continue the way they are headed!

Now these shows are not only performed by an excellent cast, they are the vision of the director, who was also the choreographer, Louise Denison, who has led this cast so incredibly well. The work that must have gone in during the months before today, has really paid off, and they should be over the moon with the outcome. Also, top marks to the team. Mark Walters, who designed the set and costumes, did a brilliant job. I was not expecting the youth theatre group to have set flying in and out of the stage as it did, as this is very much a luxury at this level, but the sets were all very well put together, and all practical in the way they were used, with a great stage team, running smoothly under the supervision of stage manager, Katie Flatters. The costumes were unbelievable. From the detail in each nuns habit, all the way down to the last sequin in the backing singers' dresses, everything was so brilliantly thought out, and not only stylish, but period appropriate, and fabulous with the management from Emma James, all of the quick changes were executed to perfection, and there were no mishaps.

John Trenouth and his team in the sound department, had a great night as the nightmare of many costume changes, and microphones can often lead to disaster, but thankfully, we had nothing to worry about here from this clearly well led experienced crew. As I mentioned earlier, the lighting was sublime. I’m a sucker for a glitterball, and I applaud the tasteful use of it. (I’d have turned it on and just left it going all night) The rest of the lighting was also excellent, the features, the movement, the mood setting, all spot on from my point of view, so congratulations to Joe Warrington and team for that. This leaves just one department, and where would a musical be without its music? Nowhere. Jim Lunt and his band did a sterling job, filling the auditorium with a lively, great sound, and gave the show that lift that just made it sparkle ever brighter. I really hope that the rest of your run goes as well as tonight.

All that leaves for me to say is thank them for the work and effort every single member made to get this show up to the professional standard it was, exceeding my expectations. I left the theatre feeling such a buzz, as I do often from seeing the touring professional shows, and that really says something about what the company achieved here. Congratulations to Wakefield Youth Musical Theatre, I cannot wait to come and see you again.

Reviewer - Simon Oliver
on - 28/8/19

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