Its five years since Newport musical theatre company Centrestage Cymru put on their first full cast presentation, Godspell, and since then, the company have constantly raised their bar in delivering a variety of classic and popular musicals including The Wiz, White Christmas, Singin’ In The Rain and 42nd Street.
The company’s latest production, Sister Act, is very much the cherry on top of previous successes. This time that audience are taken to 1970s Philadelphia where aspiring singer Deloris Van Cartier is auditioning to perform at her gangster boyfriend, Curtis’s night club.
Curtis however has no interest in promoting Deloris talents as a performer. As Deloris goes to break up with Curtis, she inadvertently witnesses him kill one of his cronies. When Deloris informs the Police, they place her in hiding at a convent until Curtis trial can be heard.
Deloris music talents are enlisted by the struggling choir within the convent that gives her a new purpose in life which similarly gives a new sense and purpose to them.
The colour, glitz and style of the 1970s comes through in Centrestage Cymru’s presentation of Sister Act with meticulous attention to detail. Flares, platform boots, bushy moustaches and Afro hairstyles contribute an authenticity to some of the dance numbers that take place.
As Curtis (Joseph Gibson), Pablo (Jordan Archer), Joey (Jordan Leigh) and TJ (Chris Davies) deliver a Temptations style dance routine to When I Find My Baby, (which describes Deloris envisaged fate) the performed choreography is both a tribute to classic Motown acts and a triumph in comic delivery.
Sister Act shines a light on some of Centrestage Cymru’s rising stars and in each case the performer delivers.
Emily Hawkins takes the lead as the feisty but funky Deloris Van Cartier. A challenging role which demands a strong characterisation with vocals and presence. Emily injects a strong believable personality into Deloris as well as soul into her performances of Take Me to Heaven, Raise Your Voice and Bless Our Show.
Ciara Doyle brings a firm and steadfast authority to the role of the Mother Superior. Ciara has delivered many strong support roles for Centrestage Cymru in the past and it’s fabulous to see her get a strong platform to display her acting and singing talents (particularly with I Haven’t Got a Prayer) as she tries to keep Deloris on the straight and narrow and preserve the reputation of a failing convent.
Luke Palfrey shines as underdog Police Officer “Sweaty” Eddie Souther who strives to be the better cop and win the love of Deloris. Luke’s best moment in the production is transforming from a policeman to a Bee Gee’s style singer as he takes on the falsetto challenging I Could Be That Guy surrounded by a group of dancing vagrants.
Comical performances and strong support come from Fiona Davies as Sister Mary Patrick and Geri McNamara as Sister Mary Robert. Both actresses comedy timing and energetic performances are fun, mischievous and energetic making them a real pleasure to watch.
Claudia Barnes makes her Centrestage Cymru debut as the stern Sister Mary Lazarus and succeeds in delivering a stark personality transformation for her character throughout the production . A special mention must also go to Georgina Powell who is a pure delight with her “away with the fairies” portrayal of Sister Mary Martin-Of-Tours. a unique personality for one of the many supporting nuns who all have fun characterisations and make the most of their fleeting moments the script allows.
With choreography from Sharon Higgins, stage direction from Peter Higgins, musical direction from Victoria Bryant and direction from Andre-Paul Spring, Sister Act is a fabulously fun packed, smooth flowing show with plenty to enjoy from top performances from an acting and musical stance.
Sister Act is a fabulous production to commemorate Centrestage Cymru’s fifth birthday – here’s to the next five years and further bars of the company’s continued success to be raised!