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Sister Act

Sister Act - Reviews

Kev Castle

Original article

"Sister Act" is the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a nightclub singer who witnesses her boyfriend, gangster and nightclub owner Curtis, shooting one of his henchmen and decides to squeal to the police. She is then hidden within a group of nuns, for her own protection, and teaches them to sing, So well in fact that they are invited to sing in front of the Pope which attracts the attention of the media, and of course Curtis and his henchmen.

And so to my favourite bit...let there be praise!

OMG! This was as good, if not better than the professional production that was doing the rounds a few years back, but when I say professional, there is no lack of professionalism here.

Deloris is played by Monique Henry and you wouldn't know that this is her debut on stage as an actor as she oozed, flounced, sashayed and belted out the songs like a seasoned pro that I have every expectation she will become. Great stage presence and exuberance swept us all along with her story. Forget Whoopi Goldberg there's a new sister on the block and she has attitude in abundance! Monique has everything you would want from a leading lady including an amazing soul/gospel set of pipes on her. I can't wait to see where she goes from here.

The whole cast were just fantastic. Loved the comedy from Curtis's flunkies, Joey (Liam Hall), TJ (Mark Coffey-Bainbridge) complete with 70's "fro", and Pablo (Nigel Newton), all regular Nottingham stage regulars. Curtis was played by Lyndon Warnsby, even managed to receive a few "boos" aimed at him at the curtain call.

The "sisters" were such a wonderfully talented bunch that regularly brought a smile to my, already Cheshire cat type face, so thank you, Jenny, Lisa-Marie, Sarah, Jackie, Hannah, Laura, Rosie, Jayne, Katie etc etc. What moves n grooves for sisters of the cloth.

Another brilliant little role was played by Ray McLeod as Officer "sweaty" Eddie Souther, the saviour of the piece, if you'd pardon the expression!

A lovely sound from the orchestra under the guidance of musical director, Chris Rees, energetic choreography from Lisa Lee and some really good sets, quickly placed, which were effective but at times slightly noisier than they needed to be, but I'm sure that this is something that will be reduced over the run. Another great success story as well from director, Amanda Hall.

The songs will get your hands clapping, your toes tapping and on your feet at the end of the night. Brilliant rousers like "Take Me To Heaven", "Raise Your Voice" and "Sunday Morning Fever" and some lovely tender moments like "I Haven't Got A Prayer" and "The Life I Never Led" along with some very funny songs (just listen to the words and remember The Floaters "Float On") from TJ, Pablo and Joey with "Lady In The Long Black Dress".

If you're not on your feet and clapping at the end of this show you must be deaf, daft or dead, or all three. I loved it and was proud to say that I was first to my feet (as far as I could see anyway). Thank you Carlton Operatic Society for a heavenly show.

Musical TV (facebook)

Original article

Postscript Review of Sister Act – May 28th 2014

Carlton Operatic Society – Nottingham Theatre Royal

Two words describe last night's performance of Sister Act – "Fabulous Baby!"

That is the title of a song sung by the central character, Deloris Van Cartier, a nightclub singer, at the start of the show. She has to seek refuge in a convent, as she is a witness to a mob murder and needs police protection. While in the Convent she miraculously transforms the off key Nun's choir into a fabulous gospel choir. She also transforms her own life and breaks free from the shady nightclub world she lived in before, she contributes to the arrest of the mob boss and saves the church from closure. Yes, all in just over 2 hours – that's the wonderful world of stage musicals for you – fabulous, baby!

However, there are some twists and turns along the way and some great musical numbers and dance routines, which move the action along quickly and keep the toes tapping. Songs like "Take Me To Heaven;" "Sunday Morning Fever;" "Raise Your Voice;" "Bless Our Show' and "Spread the Love Around' are feel good, happy clappy numbers that raise the rafters and guarantee smiles all round.

This was a very professional performance from an operatic society with a great pool of talent. There were no weak performances in my view; in fact I think this was as good a performance as the professional version I saw in London some time ago.

The show is, to a large extent, an ensemble piece, with the Nuns Choir taking the central role. They are on stage for much of the show and have several large-scale routines to master. This they did with great energy, polish and obvious enjoyment. Much credit for this must go to the choreographer, Lisa Lee, who has worked to the strengths of the group and created some exciting and visually striking set pieces. This show is her first with Carlton: I am sure she will be working on many more in the future.

There are some excellent cameo performances, notably the gangsters played with careful characterisation and just the right amount of threat combined with slapstick, by Lyndon Warnsby, Liam Hall, Mark Coffey-Bainbridge, Nigel Newton and Desrick Francis. Other notable supporting roles are played by Jackie Dunn, Hannah Rogers-Gee and Laura Thurman, all of whom have absolutely nailed their characters through voice and mannerisms.

Ray Mcleod, who is well known in the Nottingham area as an accomplished singer and dancer, plays Officer Eddie Souther. He gives an energetic and characterful performance with many witty and amusing touches, making him a favourite with the audience. Sarah Walker Smith plays the Mother Superior, who almost right to the end, disapproves of Deloris's influence on the music in the convent. She played the part with great confidence and expression and has a lovely voice. Graham Ward plays Monsignor O'Hare, the sympathetic Parish Priest, and he brings warmth and gentle humour to the role.

And so to Monique Henry, who plays the leading role of Deloris Van Cartier. I think it is fair to say that she was outstanding in the part – her singing, dancing and acting are of a professional standard and yet this is her first major role in a musical. From the first notes of "Fabulous Baby" it was obvious that she had the voice, personality and stage presence to excel in this role. What a find for Carlton Operatic and indeed the Nottingham musical scene. This will not be her last leading role.

The show ended with a full theatre standing ovation, which is not all that common in local shows. The whole company thoroughly deserved that and I for one was dancing through the Finale.

Great credit for the obvious success of the show must go to the production team, led by the very talented director, Amanda Hall. Amanda's experience and vision, plus her obvious understanding of stage spectacle, make this polished production a veritable feast for the senses.

The Musical Director, Christopher Rees, who is elevated to the Papacy during the Finale, led an excellent orchestra very well and sympathetically accompanied the singers throughout. The standard of singing was very high and a great deal of hard work and rehearsal must have gone in to making this so.

This is a show that moves along quickly and scene changes need to be very slick. They were just that under the management of the Stage Manager, Jon Higton, and his largish stage crew. Lighting and Sound were excellent and Tom Mowat must be complimented on his sympathetic Lighting design.

This was an outstanding production, which I loved. Yes, the plot and the story are a bit predictable, but the energy, excitement and talent injected into this production by all the cast made it a joy to watch. This is a must see show.

It really is "Fabulous Baby." Go see it before it ends on Saturday evening

Impact Magazine

Original article

Watch Sister Act! It is that good. In many ways it is a shame the run is so short because this production (by the Carlton Operatic Society) moves from strength to strength. The musical is based mostly on the film of the same name; a Vegas singer who hides in a convent to escape her criminal ex-lover. But, straight up, this musical is NOT the film. There is no 'I Will Follow Him' and both score and plot are fleshed out. However this should not deter fans of the original film because the musical still gives an overwhelming sense of happiness. Moreover even if you have not seen the film, there is still so much to enjoy from this show. The production is sublime, meaning there is no excuse to miss it, not even for those exams you are revising for.

What is the core of a musical? The answer is the songs and set-pieces you go away and remember. Wicked has 'Defying Gravity', and The Lion King has 'Circle of Life'. For 'Sister Act' these big set pieces are the nun choir performances, and this production does not disappoint. From 'Raise Your Voice', to 'Take Me to Heaven' Alan Menken, the original composer for the musical, creates just enough catch for the songs to stick, but it does not stop there. The choreography from Lisa Lee alone is brilliant, and for a large song list, does not feel repetitive. There is a certain guilty humour in watching nuns move from classic disco to American gospel; sway to modern raving. It is presented to be funny whilst professional, and achieves both so well. These set pieces have such diversity that each is spectacular and unique in its staging and performance. The set adapts with seamless versatility between numbers so the audience can appreciate the impressive backdrops without feeling overwhelmed, combined with a wardrobe which, again, has variety enough to excite and surprise any audience member. Combined with a superb band, such moments bring these moments to life, and drive the play forwards to towering heights.

If you going in knowing the film, then you already know that certain characters have huge shoes to fill with memorable performances from Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith. But credit where credit is due, the casting in this production is similarly pinpoint perfect. Deloris Van Cartier (Monique Henry) fills the stage as soon as she arrives and has to with such a massive role. Henry carries just the right balance between the original sass-mouthing singer to a rather believable development into one of the sisters. And she can sing well. Incredibly well, in fact, with the amount she has to and the power she gets behind soloing between soul ballads and gospel choruses. Similarly Sarah Walker-Smith brings the strict role of Mother Superior to life, presenting a character with a realistic caring nature whilst a stubborn need to hold onto tradition. She could easily be alienating, but instead uses a dry humour to present a role which you will enjoy as much as that of Deloris'. What both achieve are qualities which you loved from the original film actors whilst being different enough that the roles feel refreshingly unique. Note must also be made to Sister Mary Lazarus (Jackie Dunn) who is hilarious (and resonances beautifully in comparison to her film counterpart) and also Sister Mary Robert (Hannah Rogers-Gee). Undoubtedly the script offers a greater opportunity for her character to grow, but her voice alone could be on the West End. She belts the high register sensationally, and her solo in 'The Life I Never Led' was the stand-out solo performance in massively quality filled evening.

Undeniably there are many things that could go wrong with this production and, in some instances, did. But you don't care. You honestly don't. Although this review focused heavily on the music, I could easily rave over other cast members, production value etc. but there simply are not the superlatives. Even this review feels insubstantial in conveying how good this show is for an amateur production. It looks, feels and sounds professional, and the musical itself is massively enjoyable and hilarious. Simply, it is sensational.

James Hamilton

Noda - Matt Fry, Wednesday 28th May 2014

Carlton Operatic Society performed the regional premier of Sister Act at the Nottingham Theatre Royal. For their first performance at the Theatre Royal, Carlton had a grand setting for a great occasion. Full of energy, great music and laughter Carlton Op. thoroughly entertained the lively audience with a musical of professional standards.

The combined efforts of the creative team were expertly blended to create a truly fantastic feat of amateur theatre, certainly set the benchmark with this production. The planning and execution of the direction provided by Amanda Hall was excellent. All aspects of delivery with musical sound, directed by Christopher Rees, were superb. And the choreography, provided by Lisa Lee, was well devised and expertly applied. All in all, this was a fine example of musical production, more than fitting of the grand occasion.

Carlton is certainly privileged to have so many talented performers within its group. The performances from both principle and ensemble were polished, energetic and professional. With near-faultless casting, Carton exhibited some brilliant performances. Full of character, attitude and comedy, Monique Henry was quite simply superb as Deloris. Rising to the occasion, Monique executed with a sublime vocal performance throughout, full of tone, emotion and quality. Mother Superior, played by Sarah Walker-Smith, sang with a beautifully seasoned voice and gave a delightful, perfectly contrasting, performance as the straight leader. Lyndon Warnsby acted the nightclub owner villain brilliantly and his three stooges, played by Liam Hall, Mark Coffee-Bainbridge and Nigel Newton, were perfectly cast, providing outstanding comic bursts! The nuns were all excellent, performing with great enthusiasm and adding to the professional standards achieved. Topping the bill for the nuns were the performances provided by Jackie Dunn, Hannah Rogers-Gee and Laura Thurman, each one providing superb character portrayals. Finally, Ray McLeod gave a marvellous and charmingly comedic performance as Officer Eddie Souther.

The scenery package, professionally sourced, was simple yet adequate. The costumes were consistent, vibrant, visually fitting and added to the occasion. Backstage work was stylised and consistent. Technically, this production benefited from the professional assistance from the in-house team and it was certainly noticeable; delivering with slick scene changes, flawless lighting transitions and well controlled sound. Again, all components came together to add to the professionalism of this show.

With this production, Carlton Op. has proven that amateur productions can easily achieve the quality and standards expected of any professional theatre company. With all aspects of this musical working together nicely, it proved to be an entirely enjoyable evening. This was a fantastic production, deserving of both the standing ovation given by the enthused audience and the 'fabulous' post-show praise. From all at NODA Nottingham, we thank you for your hospitality and look forward to seeing your next production of Legally Blonde in 2015.

Nottingham Post - Elizabeth Fry

Original article

Ambitious musical has West End magic

Few musicals feature nuns cast in a major role, and as last night definitely wasn't the Sound of Music, it can only mean one thing: Sister Act has come to bless Nottingham.

Performed by local amateur group Carlton Operatic Society, the show was outrageously ambitious in its music, costumes and set changes, but succeeded in capturing some of the magic of the West End musical.

Despite a shaky start while the singers battled their nerves, as soon as the cast relaxed the audience was treated to a hilarious first half which saw the outrageous and immoral Deloris Van Cartier (Monique Henry) witness a murder by her gangster boyfriend Curtis Jackson (Lyndon Warnsby).

This results in her needing witness protection – in a convent, which promises utter chaos.

The second half evoked fewer giggles as Deloris's past catches up with her, but the excellent singing more than made up for it. The angelic tones of Mother Superior captivated a stunned audience, and the voice of young Sister Mary Robert bubbled up from nowhere and thoroughly shook the Theatre Royal.

Highlights of the night included the trio of leather-clad mafia minions who refused to take themselves too seriously and executed their cheesy dance routines with gusto and ear-splitting falsetto, a rapping nun spitting rhymes faster than the parting of the Red Sea and a cameo appearance from the orchestra's conductor as the Pope.

However, as with most amateur productions, a little more confidence and sass would have given it a greater professional vibe. Furthermore, as charming as Eddie is as a character, the weaker voice perfect for the weedier side of Eddie, failed to conjur up the bold richness required later in the show.

Put simply, this was a feel good, foot-tapping celebratory musical with an abundance of glitter, its roots firmly in the glitz of 1970s disco.

Audience comments

Bracken Holly – Facebook:

Went to see this earlier today you were all Fantastic!

Jane Oates – Facebook:

Thank you for a wonderful afternoon of entertainment. By far the best amateur production I've ever seen. Nothing amateur about it, just fabulous!

Charlotte Bond – Facebook:

Just been to your matinee performance - absolutely brilliant! The best amateur performance I've ever seen. Good luck for the rest of the run!

Gillian Williams – Facebook:

This is by far the best show I have ever seen by an Amateur Group. You are not Amateur were better than professional. Anyone who hasn't seen it needs to get a ticket if you can. Deloris is exceptional. When she cried we all cried. Brilliant, well done best group in Nottingham/East Midlands

Roz Palmer – Facebook:

What an amazing show! We had a great night tonight, well done everyone! Xx

Laura Barrett – Facebook:

Fantastic production! So many hilarious and brilliantly portrayed characters. Massive well done to all involved

Dawn Stubbs – Facebook:

went to see sister act last night in nottingham and was absolutely blown away. wonderful singing, great acting, dynamic choreography, good direction, slick scene changes. catch it while you can. well done carlton operatic society. Xxx

Netherfield WI – Facebook:

WOW! What a night, what a Show!

Tonight 50+ members of Netherfield WI had the privilege of being in the audience at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham to see the Carlton Operatic Society's production of SISTER ACT. It was a fabulous Show, so many wonderful songs, so funny, so professional and the cast really happy and enthusiastic. By the end we were on our feet, clapping,dancing in the aisles (well jigging around!!) and giving the cast a well earned standing ovation. A big thank you to Tracey and everyone who worked so hard to arrange tickets so all we had to do was enjoy the Show, which we certainly did. When is the next Show - can't wait!

Driver Del – Facebook:

OMG! What a fantastic group of sisters! If you ever wanted to experience a group of ear screeching sisters sing competitively with an upset cat and have 15 minutes or so to spare then rush down to the Theatre Royal, Nottingham. However be warned if you are in a hurry and don't have at least 2 to 3 hours to be "sucked in" then don't bother because right from the opening audition with three of Nottingham's finest ladies on stage being led by a proper diva, you will be blown away with sheer class, style, vocal ability and not to mention the compelling virgin acting professionalism, that you wouldn't be able to spot unless you knew aforehand. Ok calm down Del. People, SISTER ACT is in town thanks to the Carlton Operatic Society and it is Sizzling Hot, a must see for yourself. Forgive me for not remembering names, however all the leading roles were fantastic, however Sister Mary Clarence, Mother Superior and Sweaty Eddie for me were the stealers of the show. Trust me mi nah lie Whoopi and or the movie have nothing on Monique Henry (Deloris) or the Carlton Operatic Society. The play was funny and serious enough where it needed to be with sick tunes that both individuals and the choir, OMG the choir rocked (no more screeching, kitty cat move over). The music was excellently played though a touch too loud in parts and the Pope at the end was an awesome nuget. One and just one criticism, I saw no professional cameras filming, maybe that will be done behind doors especially with Nottingham's own TV station launching soon. A massive 9 out of 10 from me but maybe after my second viewing on Friday it will be the full 10 and yes I WILL BE ON MY FEET AGAIN. Roll on Friday. Lisa Hendricks, you did yourself and your family proud girl, well done. To the whole cast especially the males and females pushing, pulling and carrying things behind the scenes congratulations on a play well rehearsed and executed as no doubt hoped and planned. Monique Henry, ((((we love you)))) you you!!!