Tuesday, 9 February 2016

SISTER ACT is about Bonding Beyond Gender

I try and follow the practice of doing something everyday that you have never done before.  Other self-help groups have versions of this: do something that scares you. etc.

Well, well the universe always seems to be sitting on my doorstep ready to deliver and this past several days it was:   review a musical.   I hate musicals.   But my axiom as a  critic is set aside your beliefs and open up your mind

I had my mind blown when I answered the request of the Telegram to review Sisters Act.   I could have picked it apart but that would have been personal.  And a reviewer should not be.

Et Voila  this is what the paper printed:
Sister Act
February 4 to 7th, 2016 - shows added
St. John's Arts & Culture Centre

What a better way to start a review of Sisters Act than with a true confession?  I cried.   I never expected that a story about a gangster and his lounge-singing girlfriend would make me cry.  And in the plot preamble they tell you about the murder she witnessed and how she would hide in a convent.  But no, you don't hide Delores the lounge singer anywhere– even if you take away her sequins and microphone and dress her as if she was among a flock of penguins.  And they were a dysfunctional choir of nuns at that.  However, Delores' infectious energy, tell-it-like-it is wisecracks and savvy dance moves will transform them.

Dana Parsons, who plays Delores, leaves it all on stage, every time she is there:  heart, soul and every vocal chord.  And that is also true of the 30-some odd cast members and the dance ensemble.  There was such an outpouring of energy and emotion on stage that the audience could not help but respond.  The directors Jacinta Mackey Graham and Douglas Vaughan are to be commended for crafting an experience that swept male and female, old and young away for two hours plus in the audience.  Even when the visuals of the staging could not keep up with the rollicking good humour - no one cared.  And if you have a sold out audience having that much good fun no one is going to remember that the lighting was not perfect.

I wasn't expecting that a musical about a central character in witness protection would be a play about bonding, sharing and human love.  Sisters Act was a drama that was a lot more than about "girl power" or standing up to the controlling man in your life.  After all, Delores just trades in surly Curtis for sweaty Eddy at the end or at least that's what the chorus of swooning nuns and Eddy's strut suggests.  What was intriguing was how convincing was the transformation of Delores from puppet girlfriend to convent catalyst and how she impacted the nuns' lives . 

Now in true over the top musical stage tradition there has to be a bunch of things that happen all at the end in a grand– a sort of fanfare, dramatic display or grand finale.  And Sister Act did not disappoint.   The Pope showed up, the somewhat sinister bill collecting men in suits decide to finance the church instead of buying it and well you get the general idea.  The girl gets the guy, the day is saved and…isn't this why musicals do so well in times of social and financial depression?  The dirty thirties, those big productions with tuxedos and tap dancing down grand staircases…We needed them then and we need them now.

Gloria Hickey

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