Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Is Alexandra Burke Heavenly As Nun On The Run?
Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood has turned his hand to modernising the musical Sister Act following his success on stage in Annie last year - but is it a heavenly affair?
Alexandra Burke stars in Sister Act The Musical
With Revel Horwood in charge of choreography, I expected huge extravagant dance routines in Sister Act at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre , where it runs from September 12 to 17 as part of a UK tour starring pop star Alexandra Burke.
But the Strictly judge likes nothing more than to surprise and what the audience got instead was a more thoughtful show that focussed heavily on the characters and friendships in this tale about a selfish singer who sees the light after spending time hiding out with nuns in a convent.
This production of Sister Act is something more multi-dimensional than a glitzy, big number musical and that's partly because the cast were picked for their musical ability. All of them play instruments live throughout the show and although it sounds strange that nuns are armed with a clarinet or trumpet, it really works fantastically well.
The music was put first too with a wonderful, emotive Motown-influenced score by Alan Menken, a Tony and eight-time Oscar winner for music in Disney films like Aladdin, Enchanted and Beauty and the Beast and it shows.
Alexandra Burke has grown into an all-round performer
Alexandra Burke's heavenly voice does many of the songs justice but so do the talented supporting cast, particularly Karen Mann as the Mother Superior and the leading men - Jon Rubyns as good cop Eddie and Aaron Lee Lambert as bad guy Curtis.
Burke, who was last seen on stage in the lead role of The Bodyguard on tour, plays disco diva Deloris Van Cartier, who hides out in protective custody in a convent after witnessing a murder by her gangster lover Curtis.
I saw Burke in The Bodyguard last year when her acting didn't quite match her stunning vocals. This time around, she's much more of an all-round leading lady with good comic timing to take on the role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg in the film version. For those hoping to see Burke, it's worth noting that she will not be performing at matinee performances.
The characters of the nuns make Sister Act endearing
There is good choreography, don't get me wrong, but it's more low key as Revel Horwood always said it would be difficult to show lines and movement for a cast mainly covered from head to toe in habits. There are a couple of dazzling disco-inspired dream sequences though.
Set in a gothic church with stained glass windows and an organ, it's an impressive main set that alters to adapt to various locations.
The real highlight, however, are the scenes when the nuns come together. Getting to know them all is a delight and the script can be bit edgy and sarcastic, which is refreshing.
Revel Horwood has done well to reinvigorate the original Sister Act musical from Broadway into this new production. It's witty, naughty at times and thoroughly endearing - a lot like Revel Horwood himself.
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
September 12 - 17
Tickets cost from £20.40 to £75.90 from the theatre website or by calling 0844 871 3031.