The Tony Award-winning musical ‘Sister Act’ has come to Cape Town and while the church can shout “Amen” it covers more than the movie it is based on.
Running from the 12 July to 15 July 2017 at the Artscape Arena, this production by the Waterfront Theatre College showcases some of South Africa’s musical theatre talent.
I love musicals, especially musicals that I’m more unfamiliar with, leaving room for the element of surprise.
It’s been awhile since I had gone into a musical being only familiar with the basic story line but not knowing the actual music. The last musical I saw was ‘Wicked’ on Broadway in New York City, and I was ready to be transported to the world of musical theatre again. Now, you can’t compare a show on Broadway to a theatre college production.
However, true talent shines through no matter the production level.
This was the case with ‘Sister Act’ where there were clear stars with a capital “S” on their chest, and others that are destined to be a Michelle or a Kelly.
First, we have our lead Deloris van Cartier played by Mpho Bodibe.
Miss Bodibe steps into the iconic role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg, and while she has a great voice and is a serviceable actress something didn’t click. She was clearly nervous at the beginning with her voice going very flat during one of her opening numbers. She did eventually settle into her role, but she never truly inhabited the character. Her overall performance felt as fake as her American accent — one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to South African production of American musical.
There seems to be a consistent issue with actors nailing a proper American accent. ‘Rent’ — which showcased earlier this year — had the same problem. You’ll have actors that are spot on while others are slightly off and does pull you out of the world the playwright tried to create. The men in the play, in general, were very weak and I was expecting more from Dean de Klerk who plays Curtis, since I had seen him earlier this year in ‘Rent’ as Mark Cohen. The biggest faux pas happened during Eddie’s (Darren Rockman) big solo number in the first act.
Centre is Nic Sedgwick as Monsignor 'O Hara with all the sisters. L- R Annette Benze, Nicolette Fernandez, Belinda Susman, Nicole Austin, Emma Di Bona, Robyn Ivey, Sinead Donnelly, Claire Glover, Estie De Wet, Zine Gwija & Sindiswa Ndlovov. Picture: Supplied
Firstly, the song was to low for him and he was visibly uncomfortable singing it. Then when a big key change happened in the middle of the song, he totally missed it and was horribly off pitch by the end. Luckily, this show is about a bunch of singing nuns and when they come on stage the whole energy of the show shifted.
All of the nuns were spectacular. Even those that were not principal members stayed in character and when they sang together it was truly magical.
The standout star here is Sister Mary Robert, played by Nicolette Fernandez. She is going to be a musical theatre star and — in my opinion — is ready to be on Broadway or the West End. From the moment she opened her mouth I got goosebumps. She nearly had me in tears during her big solo number.
The last time I was that drawn in was when the song ‘Defying Gravity’ was performed in ‘Wicked’. She really is spectacular and her vocal control is akin to that of Idina Menzel. Fernandez is an Elphaba in the making and would love to watch her sing any of the big musical numbers.
Other standouts included Sister Mary Lazarus(Emma di Bona), Sister Mary Patrick (Claire Glover) and Mother Superior (Zoe McLaughlin). These women lift this show to a level that you would not expect from a college theatre production.
‘Sister Act’, for the most part, is a lot of fun. The music is catchy, the nuns are fantastic singers and you will have a fun time at the theatre.