Sister Act Review

Sister Act pulsates with life, joy and celebration from the very first moment the curtain is drawn. Deloris Van Cartier, a singer in a nightclub, is in trouble and needs a place to hide from Curtis Jackson (Ian Gareth-Jones) who is the villain of the piece complete with three hilarious henchmen. Deloris finds herself, unexpectedly, in a convent (Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow) and makes the best of it. The show is about community and sisterhood, pulling together in the face of adversity and I think it’s one you must not miss.

Sister Act: Landi Oshinowo as Deloris Van-Cartier
Photo by Oliver Rosser @ Feast Creative

With a fresh adaptation of the well-known film, this production of Sister Act has a different musical score and script. Songs are inspired by Motown, soul and disco; the musical is joyous and uplifting in equal measure. Choreography is complex and masterfully executed by Alistair David.

West End star Landi Oshinowo is magnificent as Deloris, confident, witty, warm, sparkling with humanity and honesty. She has an impressive musical range and commands all of the audience’s attention whenever she is on stage. She sings about sisterhood in the headline song, Sister Act and later, the whole company of nuns amplify her sound. She has starred as the Empress of China in Aladdin as well as Shrek the Musical and Britain’s Got Talent on TV among many other shows.

Sister Act: Sue Cleaver from Coronation Street
Photo by Oliver Rosser @ Feast Creative

Kate Powell is hilarious as the Mother Superior, performing four songs and entreating her God in a deadpan manner to rescue the convent from the irresistible magnetism of Deloris. Sue Cleaver from Coronation Street will only play the role of Mother Superior in Sister Act from Thursday 14 to Saturday 16 March.

Alfie Parker is the slightly unprepossessing Policeman, Eddie Souther, who gives a stirling performance in Sister Act during his performance of ‘I could be that guy.’ Audiences always love an underdog, and he got one of the biggest cheers of the evening.

Sister Act: Alfie Parker as Eddie Souther
Photo by Mark Senior

Eloise Runnette, who plays Sister Mary Robert, is painfully shy at first and finds her voice with the help of Deloris. She performs a beautiful solo in the second half called: ‘The Life I never Led.’ She is a very young when she joins the convent and can’t help but ask the question: is she missing out on what secular life has to offer?

Phillip Arran plays Monsignor O’Hara, the priest who will do anything to keep his Church open and fill its coffers.

Direction is excellent by Bill Buckhurst who manages a cast of 21 singers and dancers. He has previously directed Sweeney Todd and a whole host of Shakespearean plays and you can sense his wealth of experience.

Sister Act: Company of nuns
Photo by Mark Senior

Sister Act is produced by a team led by Jamie Wilson and the film star Whoopi Goldberg. Complete with an orchestra of eight, the show features original music by Tony®, 8-time Oscar® winner Alan Menken (of Disney’s Aladdin, Enchanted) and lyrics by Glenn Slater.

Costumes are breath-taking, designed by Morgan Large – think Freddie Mercury in a glittering final extravaganza.

An outstanding show, Sister Act warms the heart and lifts the soul. It invites us to embrace a world where good triumphs over evil, and the power of friendship makes the audience celebrate life in all its brilliant, dazzling exuberance.

This article was first published on Brighton Source, our going out Bible.

Bette and Joan by Anton Burge

Bette and Joan charts the relationship between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford while they make the film ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’ The film is a psychological thriller about a bitter, lifelong rivalry between two sisters, both actors. This play, Bette and Joan is set in their Hollywood dressing rooms in the sixties, while they are shooting the film, and is an intensely personal look into the hidden lives of the two stars. Both women are now in their fifties and suffice it to say, they are not best friends.

Bette Davis
Photo with kind permission of Miles Davis photography.

Emmie Spencer gives a masterful performance as Bette Davis in Bette and Joan and it’s excellent to see her in a leading role. She has real presence: she is a seasoned actor in the Brighton Little Theatre company and starred humorously as the Nurse in Shakespeare in Love. In Bette and Joan she is always in command, only speaks when necessary, has the best lines, she’s occasionally acerbic and hard pressed on every side. Bette often plays strong women, sometimes villains, and chooses her friends very carefully.

Bridget Ane Lawrence, educated in Chicago and New York, gives a compelling performance as the beautiful and, at times, hysterical Joan Crawford. Both Lawrence and Spencer often perform at the New Venture Theatre in Brighton.

Joan is proud of her appearance and lacks the strong, core stability of Bette Davis. If Bette Davis resembles a contemporary Adele, strong, private and uncompromising, Joan Crawford is highly-strung: a pleaser, more akin to a brunette Marilyn Monroe with slightly less talent.

In the first half of Bette and Joan, Bette Davis has the upper hand. Joan Crawford’s strength becomes more apparent after the interval, revealing a metal beneath her fragile presentation. The mood becomes more reflective, both stars looking back on men they have loved and lost, not least Clark Gable. There is a sense that loneliness is the price of fame for these pre-eminent women.

Joan Crawford
With kind permission of Miles Davies Photography.

Direction by Ann Atkins is excellent, as are the costumes put together by a team of three including Glenys Stuart. Steven Adams designed the set which represents an intimate look inside Hollywood.

Anton Burge wrote the script which is littered with references to Bette and Joan’s shows. I would have liked to see more of a resolution at the end and more context into how the film was received. Burge specialises in writing about famous women. He directed Mrs. Pat starring Dame Penelope Keith at Chichester Festival Theatre. In 2011, Bette and Joan opened in the West End starring Greta Scacchi and Anita Dobson.

I recommend this play, Bette and Joan, the audience loved it – it may be set in the sixties, but the themes of friendship, rivalry, aging, love and loss are timeless.

Brighton Little Theatre
Tuesday 05 to Saturday 09 March 2024
Photos by Miles Davies Photography

This article was first published on Brighton Source, the going out Bible.