Last week saw the West End and Broadway return to Herstmonceux as HATS entertained sell-out audiences with their six show run of the hit musical, Sister Act.
Based on the 1992 Hollywood blockbuster, penned by Alan Menken and George Slater and set in 1980’s Philadelphia, Sister Act tells the story of the unlikely collision of two worlds – the Sisterly residents of the dilapidated convent, Church of Angels, and the fortunes of wannabe night club singer Deloris Van-Cartier who is sent there under the witness protection programme to hide from her gangster boyfriend Curtis Jackson.
Against the will of Mother Superior who sees that the two have little in common, Deloris is taken in. The obvious twists and turns take place with music being the common ground that unites Deloris with the nuns.
It is of course inevitable that both worlds learn to live with each other’s differences for the greater good which in turn, conquers evil with lessons learned along the way. Deloris’ music revitalises the church and raises money for restoration, while she learns the values of a more humble life and experiences the power of love shown to her by her new found Sisterhood.
Under the direction of Chris and Linda Thompson the Herstmonceux company continues to grow and produce high quality amateur theatre. No corners are cut on costumes, staging, lighting or sound and the live band under the directorship of Pat White is outstanding.
Lucy Smith in the lead role displays a skilful sense of balance between comedy and drama to give an honest and utterly credible performance. Her vocals are strong but emotive and the chemistry between her and the rest of the cast is clear to see.
Linda Thompson as the often-exasperated ‘Mother Superior plays her part most convincingly. Not one note is left un-hit and her understated use of asides are a pleasure as is her relationship with Trevor Fuggle in the part of Monsignor O’Hara.
Cliff Bendall as Curtis Jackson and his side-kicks, Oliver Albertella and Dan Adsett, mix menace with pantomime buffoon to great effect in their roles as the Bad Guys while the subtlety of acting from Stewart Patient coupled with smooth 80’s style crooning make for a charming portrayal of Sweaty Eddie.
As a chorus the Sisters are outstanding – the harmonies in both the traditional and more ‘funked-up’ numbers are of heavenly quality and there are nice cameos given from Joanna Stevens and Annalie Claire.
In the part of reluctant and timid Sister Mary Robert, Ruby Thomas is most assured and after bursting in to song mid act one, holds the audience captivated with her solo of The Life I Never Led in Act 2.
Throughout the night the audience is treated to great numbers such as Take Me To Heaven, Raise Your Voice and Fabulous Baby. Scene changes are slick and professional, and it is evident that a whole team effort from start to finish means that not just the ‘Sisters’ but the whole of the company have their ‘Act’ together. Bravo HATS – you’ve done it again! By Robin Thomas.