Sister Act at The Liverpool Empire

Posted on 11 October 2016
By Chris High
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Fresh from her role as Rachel Marron in the recent run of The Bodyguard – one made famous by Whitney Houston in the film of the same name – Alexandra Burke returns to The Liverpool Empire Theatre in another role made famous through the silver screen. This one is the hyper-active, uber-soulful Deloris Van Cartier, the irrepressible gangster moll in hiding epitomised by Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.

All Deloris wants to do is sing … and get rich and famous doing it. Then when she witnesses her gang leader boyfriend Curtis shoot dead one of his gang members, Deloris goes into protective custody in a Philadelphia Catholic church staffed by a discordant collection of nuns whose only means of recreation is singing in the choir: something they do with gusto, but hilariously badly.

With more cheese than a classic Philly Steak, Sister Act is … well … Sister Act. It’s fun, it’s loud, it kills a couple of hours and then moves on until it comes back around again. Nothing really stands out – with the exception of the irreverence conjured up in the side-splitting scene in which the mobster’s dream of chatting up the nuns, which is very nearly Pythonesque – and perhaps it is the lack of a real show stopping song that is the reason.

Yes, Raise Your Voice is belted out at a heck of a pace – and yes Alexandra Burke can certainly carry off the role, if at times her dialogue get a little lost amidst the shouting – but a lot of the subtlety of what the songs are relating to is lost amidst the razzmatazz.

As Mother Superior, Karen Mann holds things together as the reluctant matriarch, all sassy Irish / American toughness that is great to see melting by degrees. Excellent too as both Sister Mary Lazarus and Sister Mary Patrick respectively are Rosemary Ashe and Susannah Van Den berg, who really enliven things still further each time they contribute.Jon Robyns, too, as Detective ‘Sweaty’ Eddie also pulls out all the stops and delivers with a role that could be built into so much more than just one song.

Yet with all of this said, there isn’t really enough substance for it to be played out across over very nearly two-and-a-half-hours of stage time. After all, the movie runs for just 1 hour and 40 minutes! Were it even twenty minutes shorter, the impact of the whole would be so much stronger and, as a result, see the fun factor trebled.

Sister Act
The Liverpool Empire Theatre
October 10 – October 15, 2016
Director / Choreographer: Craig Revel Horwood
Cast Includes: Alexandra Burke, Karen Mann, Jon Robyns, Rosemary Ashe, Aaron Lee Lambert, Susannah Van Den Berg, Sarah Goggin, Sandy Grieglis.
Running Time: 2 hrs 45 mins
PR Rating: *** Boisterous

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