REVIEW: Sister Act – Motherwell Concert Hall

With a fresh outlook and some new faces, the 111 year old Hamilton Operatic and Dramatic Club are a society with a renewed spring in its step.

This year tackling Sister Act, the strong central casting raises this above the usual amateur theatre fodder.

Based on the much-loved 1992 movie, Cheers writers Cheri and Bill Steinkellner have revamped the story for its musical incarnation and while the movie features a raft of Motown hits, copyright issues mean that Broadway and Disney veteran Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater are charged with creating an all-new score.

When lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier witnesses her mobster boyfriend murder one of his low-life associates, she is put in protective custody in a convent. While transforming the tone-deaf choir into the hottest ticket in town, Deloris puts herself back in the firing line of the very gangsters she is hiding from.

Following on from her role as Dorothy in last year’s Wizard of Oz, Marianne Millard stars as Deloris. Millard has found her perfect role here, the larger than life singer with the powerhouse voice is the perfect fit. There are some knock-out nuns too (if there could be such a thing): Anne Morrison is a delight as the doubting Mother Superior as is Emma Rodger as the eternally optimistic Sister Mary Patrick and Cathy Taylor delivers a hysterical turn as the deadpan Sister Mary Lazarus.

There is extremely strong vocal support too from a fantastic (almost all-female) ensemble who are an absolute delight when singing as one.

While it really all is about the women in Sister Act, the boys manage to hold their own. Gordon Watson wins the audience’s sympathy and support as put-upon cop with a heart of gold, Eddie, it’s just a shame that there’s little opportunity here to exercise his impressive vocal skills in this part. In fine voice too is Peter Scally as mobster Curtis, who gets to deliver the hysterical When I Find My Baby, his acting however lacks conviction. As the trio of intellectually challenged, would-be hoodlums: Joey, Pablo and  T.J., Cameron King, Marc Costello and Allan Cochrane provide laughs as does Roland Russell as Monsignor O’Hara.

Former performer, now director, John Carr delivers a sure-footed production which cracks on apace and the finished result is a polished, tight and ultimately entertaining evening’s theatre.

If they continue to bring new talent, new ideas and a clear focus on the future, then this can only mean a sure future for Hamilton Operatic and Dramatic Club.

*as a footnote to the production, (and nothing to do with HODC) mention must be made of the appalling behaviour of the audience throughout the production. With constant latecomers (some half an hour after curtain, clutching a drink from the bar in each hand); incessant talking and sweetie eating and rustling; endless trips in and out to the bar accompanied by the theatre staff helping them in and out with full beam torches; there was little respect for the performers onstage and no respect for the people sitting around them. The only concern for the staff seemed to be the use of mobile phones.

If the venue wishes to operate as a professional one then the management and the staff need to act accordingly.