“AH yes, I think I see the problem,” I enlighten my daughter. She’s sitting on the floor foraging an old hi-fi system which was collecting dust. She plugs it in and inserts a CD, it’s playing but without sound. “It’s not like your tablet or computer, you need to add the speakers!”
She can have the hi-fi now she’s at that age; 8 going on 18. I move it to her room and attach speakers. You might think an eight-year-old would select the latest pop sensation but no, I note my Best of Atlantic Soul boxset mysteriously missing. Within seconds we’re dancing around her room to Sam & Dave, Aretha Franklin, et al.
Her passion for this genre stems from one of her favourite films, Sister Act. We’ve watched it enough for her to know every character and line. So imagine our joy when The Invitation Theatre Company planned to stage the musical. With a rich, local theatrical history the group added the musical to its growing list of performances aptly staged in the church-turned-arts-centre, St Marys in Devizes over last week, and what a fantastic show it was.
Now I admit musicals are not something I could do on a daily basis but I’ve seen a few in London and always left in awe. I had to be concerned; can a local theatre group compare to this, is it going to be more school play than West End musical?
The West End will always have quality actors but when they’ve been running a show every day for months the monotony reflects in their performance. The difference here, other than the obvious inexpensiveness, is that these folk have an acute passion, the Invitation Theatre’s crew loving every minute, and it shows.
My second concern; would it keep the attention-span of my daughter, being the music wouldn’t be classics featured in the film? Well, she was spellbound throughout; enough for her to be blissfully unware of the disappearing Maltesers from her box!
A showgirl is placed under protective custody after witnessing a gangland murder. Police decided to hide her in a church, disguised as a nun. After her initial abhorrence of the setting she takes to nurturing the choir into something of a sensation which consequently attracts the attention of the gang.
A simple but effective plot for the 1992 Disney film starring Whoopi Goldberg which faced some controversy over plagiarism but became a popular Broadway musical part produced by Goldberg. It’s fast-paced fun with an inspirational soundtrack.
A Philadelphia setting, TITCO bravely put on the accents but there’s something fundamentally indigenous about it; the mock-up bar and the familiar faces in the audience. It’s decidedly Devizes but is its fitting location spectacular on entry, such a beautiful church.
Using this to their advantage, peaking over the fourth wall, treating the audience as if they were at a service was nothing short of sublime; particularly by the hilarious Monsignor, Paul Morgan, who adapted to the change in the church by continuing to appear cooler and cooler.
The first couple of songs laid my concerns to rest; Teresa Bray played the perfect egotistical Las Vegas showgirl, Deloris Van Cartier and equally perfectly cast, Allison Moore as the Mother Superior.
The funniest moments featuring the Nuns though being the relationship between the over-excitable Sister Mary Patrick, Jemma Brown and self-conscious Stacey Vaux as Sister Mary Robert.
The lads’ roles saw Anthony Brown master the misunderstood cop Eddie and the gangsters Simon Hoy and Chris Worthy (who also directed) acted with perfection too. Will Sexton as the gang leader’s goofy nephew was second to one, that one being the forceful portrayal of gang leader Curtis by the memorable Ian Diddams; I’m not messing with that guy!
Massive congratulations go to all performers, the band conducted by Chris J Anderson and background crew as they raised the exceptionally high roof with uplifting and emotional songs, the acoustics of the church and the suitability of the location adding to the effect.
The audience left in a bubble of mirth and joyful sentiment, outside was akin to the happiness of a wedding, satisfied customers departed and the Invitation Theatre Group, content there was one more successful night to go, raised money for the worthy Devizes Opportunity Centre.
No would have believed but the next stop is Jeff Wayne’s musical version of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds in November; oh yeah, one of my favs. Aliens invading Devizes is something not to be missed!