Sister Act, Irving Stage Company, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, November 2.
Whoopi Goldberg, step aside. There’s a new Deloris Van Cartier on the block with as much sass and comedic timing as her predecessor, and her name is Anna Damigella.
Sister Act sees the transformation of wannabe nightclub singer Deloris into Sister Mary Clarence, after being offered shelter from her murderous ex Curtis at the Queen of Angels convent
A stellar performance by Damigella underpins this excellent production, with strong support from Marnie Randall as Mother Superior, Ben Young as Curtis, Ben Child as ‘Sweaty’ Eddie and, above all, the sisters. Not one nun’s performance was restricted by the ‘long black dress’, with some remarkeable facial expressions, novel ‘armography’ and fantastic characterisation across the board.
Jordan Cooper particularly impressed as Sister Mary Robert, who blossoms under Sister Mary Clarence’s unorthodox tutelage. “This must be what it feels like to be Protestant,” she exclaims the first time she steps into a bar, alongside enthusiastic fellow nun Sister Mary (there are a lot of Mary’s) Patrick, in a perfectly-pitched performance by Jenny Acheson.
High points come thick and fast, with memorable (and very funny at times) group numbers from Deloris and the nuns as the choir transforms the fortunes of the once-doomed convent through exuberant performances of slightly inappropriate songs, much to Mother Superior’s horror.
The second half sees Curtis hot on the heels of his mistress and he sends his stooges TJ, Pablo and Joey to find a way into the convent ahead of the nuns’ performance for the Pope. Thus follows a very entertaining demonstration of the crooks’ wooing techniques (The Long Black Dress).
Finally Deloris’ true identity is revealed, but she returns to the convent to sing with her sisters. Then, in some touching and emotional scenes, they step in to save her life when Curtis finally catches up with her.
Add in tight direction from Tess Smith, clever choreography by Glen Conner, an impressive band led by Nicola Brazier, outstanding vocals throughout, stylish sets and costumes and a truly heart-warming tale, this production was a treat from start to finish.
As my neighbour said at the end: “You know it’s brilliant when it’s made you cry.” I admit to shedding a tear, too.