Maverick Life

Maverick Life

The divine sisters hit a heavenly high note

The divine sisters hit a heavenly high note

You can’t go far wrong with a bunch of happy singing nuns. There’s something about seeing the staid suddenly explode into life that instantly gets you smiling. That’s the essence of Sister Act, a well-proven package with a hit movie and successful runs on Broadway and in London, writes LESLEY STONES.

The Joburg version of Sister Act is an absolute delight, a lavish show blessed with a live orchestra, superb cast and a production crew that makes it slick, shiny and adorable.

But what makes it stand out is the art of the unexpected. This mad musical has far more depth to it than just delivering an entertaining night out. It’s not only about gangsters and an outlandish brassy singer, it’s about friendship and values and becoming the best that you can be. That deeper meaning gives the show an emotional punch that sneaks up and surprises you.

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On the surface, it’s pretty simple. When nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder she needs police protection, and is taken to a convent with the impossible instructions to just blend in. Happily the convent is in need of a musical revival, and Delores soon has the nuns shaking off their constraints and hitting some heavenly high notes.

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Candida Mosoma is a ball of energy as Delores, the role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg in the 1992 movie version.

Mosoma is a little bit Whoopi herself, with big hair, an even bigger voice and the strutty walk of one who knows that everybody is watching her booty go by. She’s a real gem, but a team player too, never too brash to outshine the other actors.

Kate Normington is fabulous as the strict Mother Superior who paradoxically gets many of the funniest lines and cracks them out deliciously.

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Director Janice Honeyman has achieved a perfect flow of light and shade, with the action flowing fast when it needs to and stopping for reflective moments to quieten the pace down again.

The script by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner is delightful, packed with wit and warmth and bringing various threads into it as everyone comes with their own stories. The cast is universally strong, with little sparks of humour or movement constantly happening to give each player a personality.

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Toni Jean Erasmus is perfect as the youngest nun, Sister Mary Robert. She has a beautiful voice and gives a lovely portrayal of youthful uncertainty, trembling on the brink of something bigger but not quite daring to grab it. As she sings about living the ‘life you never led’ those deeper emotions crackle again.

It’s a sassy yet uplifting and inspiring show, as the characters move beyond what they thought they were. Eddie the cop (played by Zano) continues that theme superbly, as a shy, humdrum policeman coming out of his shell when the chips are down to protect the woman he loves.

Love does strange things to people – turning cops into heroes, tarty singers into stalwart friends and nuns into a choir of rollicking avengers.

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The music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater won’t stick in your head for days afterwards, but they romp along nicely and the lyrics are clever enough to pay attention to. There’s a lovely dance scene with the gangsters and small, neat embellishments like microphones in the shape of guns. The gangsters dance again later in a hilarious scene as they prepare to woo the women, and their songs of seduction are saucy and cheeky. Forget Jehovah, the wait is over, croon these missionaries of romance.

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The excellent cast sports costumes by Sarah Roberts that are scene-stealers themselves, with sequined sparkling nuns and enough glittering gold to make the Pope look like a pauper.

The sets are excellent too, with travelling scenery that gives us a bar, a police station and a backdrop of tatty tenement blocks. Then the grime disappears and we have the church with wonderful soaring arches and stained glass windows. It’s all utterly divine. DM

Sister Act runs at Joburg Theatre until 16 August. Tickets from www.joburgtheatre.com or Tel: 0861 670 670.

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