Sisters stage a superior show

Wakefield West Riding Theatre Company: Sister Act, Theatre Royal Wakefield, Tuesday 20 October 2015

Praise the Lord! Actually, praise the Wakefield West Riding Theatre Company for a singin', swingin', pleasure-bringin' night of fun with their nuns.

The basic premise of Sister Act – larger-than-life soul singer gets a convent-load of suppressed sisters dancing to her tune – is difficult to dislike however it's presented.

But when it's delivered with as much panache, pleasure and sheer professionalism as this, then the result is two-and-a-half hours of complete delight.

Star-by-a-mile of the show is, of course, Deloris Van Cartier – a.k.a. Sister Mary Clarence when she's placed in a convent by the Philadelphia cops to protect her as witness to a gangland murder.

It's a big role in every sense of the word and it was handled brilliantly by Rachel Marshall with her powerful singing, spot-on American accent and, crucially, the nous to resist taking Deloris too far over the top.

Faced with the overwhelming presence of the central character, it's easy to overlook the qualities of some of the other players. However, there were classy contributions from Ian Fryer as oily lounge lizard club owner Curtis Jackson; Andy Ashley as blustering but insecure police chief Eddie Souther; and Anna Potton as loud and ever-so-slightly-dotty Sister Mary Patrick.

Praise, too, for the way WWRTC debutant Isabel Canning took Sister Mary Robert from naïve novice to strong-willed sister, while the facial expressions of Christine Shoesmith's Mother Superior the first time she saw her tuneless choir transformed into swinging soul divas were a delight to watch – as was her solo number I Haven't Got A Prayer.

With some slick ensemble routines (It's Good To Be A Nun and I Could Be That Guy were arguably the highlights) complementing the main action – credit to Dee Bennie-Marshall on that count – this was just what musical theatre should be all about.

WfL rating: 4.5/5

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