After a break in proceedings I returned to the fold to see the touring production of Sister Act. As it happens, the musical has also had an enforced hiatus so we both resumed normal service together. Actually, it wasn’t quite normal service for either of us as the show began, and ended, 20 minutes late with the advertised Mother Superior, Lesley Joseph, being replaced by Lori Haley Fox, and my having to leave shortly before the end due to a mixture of pain and bus times.
Sandra Marvin in Deloris Van Cartier mode
The story is quite clever being the tale of an aspiring cabaret singer and gangster’s Moll, Dolores Van Cartier, who sees her man, Curtis Jackson, murder a suspected informant and goes to the police to tell them of the incident. Eddie Souther, the cop she sees, and whom she knows from school, puts her into witness protection by installing her in a convent which is the last place anyone will look for her.
When there she has trouble adapting but finds a niche when she is asked to take over the running of the, abysmal, choir. After rearranging their repertoire of hymns from those sung in Latin to hot gospel and soul they improve no end. This is a good thing as the new programme attracts a large congregation and swells the coffers of the convent thus averting its impending closure.
Doloris holding court with the other nuns having kicked the habit for the night.
The success of the convent makes Doloris a firm favourite amongst the sisters, with the exception of Mother Superior who is more traditional in her outlook. This popularity comes in useful at the denouement of the piece when, just before the trial, Curtis and his henchmen discover her whereabouts and enter the convent disguised as nuns in order to silence her. The rest of the sisters make it plain that Curtis will have to shoot them all if he wants to get to Doloris.
Needless to say, all ends well and justice is done. Not only that but it is Eddie who makes the arrest and, always having had a soft spot for Doloris, asks her out, an offer which she accepts.
Clive Rowe as ‘Steady’ Eddie Souther, seated, dreaming of being Disco God
The music and songs, by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater were superb, which was just as well as the show was a succession of set pieces rather than a flowing narrative. This did lend itself to some great song and dance numbers as the set was constantly changing to accommodate them. My favourite was I Could Be That Guy, when ‘Steady’ Eddie, the boring cop, dreamt about being a disco god. He began his fantasy dressed as a patrol cop but he leapt onto the desk in the station where he was joined by some uber camp colleagues in scanty uniforms covered in glitter who ripped his jacket and trousers off to reveal an Elvis in Las Vegas outfit in which he sang most of the rest of the song. The masterstroke was when his fantasy turned back to reality and the glittery cops ripped off his catsuit to reveal another police uniform beneath.
Jeremy Secomb in subtle striped suit as Curtis Jackson, with his mob, l to r Pablo – Damian Buhagiar, TJ – Bradley Judge and Joey – Tom Hopcroft
The premise of a gangster’s Moll in a convent obviously lends itself to comedy but this was just plain daft. If you like silliness then this is for you, but the gangsters, the monsignor and some of the nuns were just too bonkers for words. The only characters with more than one dimension were the Mother Superior, played by Lori Haley Fox, whose performance could not possibly have been bettered by the advertised actor; Eddie Souther (Clive Rowe); Deloris Van Cartier, the magnificent Sandra Marvin who really belted the good time gospel out and transitioned from floozy to mentor; and Sister Mary Robert, played by Lizzie Bea, the shrinking violet who blossomed throughout the show.
Lizzie Bea – Sister Mary Robert
So, if you want to lose yourself in an evening of great music sung mainly by cartoon characters, then this is for you. You will certainly go home in a better mood than you arrived, as would I had my painkillers not given up the ghost!
Sister Act is at Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday 1st April. For more details and tickets please go to https://leedsheritagetheatres.com/whats-on/sister-act/
All photographs by Manuel Harlan. Sadly there is not one of Lori Haley Fox as Mother Superior.
One thought on “Sister Act at Leeds Grand Theatre”
Great review. Glad to see you resume normal service, hope the pains don’t curtail any future reviews and that you feel better soon!