The award-winning Oxford Operatic Society have produced a joyful, loving homage to the blockbuster hit Sister Act, in a show guaranteed to fill you with warmth this January.
The group brings to life a witty script which transformed the film into a Broadway production. It tells the tale of 'worldly' singer Deloris Van Cartier, who is sheltered in a convent as part of a witness protection programme after witnessing her boyfriend commit a murder.
In the original film, Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris is an icon, and I imagined that any attempt to follow in her footsteps would miss the mark. Katie Bedborough, however, did a stellar job of making the role completely her own, aided in part by the musical's score, markedly different from that of the film. Bedborough is undeniably the star, clearly relishing her chance to hit the big notes, and injecting plenty of soul. At first, her energy and presence meant she stole each scene she appeared in, and I anticipated her stealing the show entirely - but thanks to the skilful direction of Dave Crewe and the choreography of Kerry Hudson and Rachel Haydon, the chorus' singing and dancing provided enough of a spectacle to insure against this production becoming a one-woman show.
Other standout turns for me came from two performers who felt underutilized in the show. Laura O'Mahony as Sister Mary Robert had a small role, with a few thrilling solos which showed off her fabulous vocal range more and more as the show progressed, but in a way which I felt made her deserving of a larger role, so I hope that in future productions she shares more of the spotlight. Similarly, Jo Jo Meredith, playing TJ, demonstrated a fantastic command of the notes, suggesting talent beyond his experience: this is his first performance with OXOPS, so again I hope his promise will be recognised in a more central role going forward.
In keeping with the storyline of Deloris teaching the nuns to sing, the chorus grew more harmonious and powerful throughout the evening, supported by the brilliant orchestra. The energy built with catchy tunes like 'Raise Your Voice' and 'Sunday Morning Fever', which saw the auditorium filled with clapping, laughter and grins.
I couldn't do justice to this performance without mentioning the fabulous costumes, particularly where the nuns were involved. I never expected quite so much glitter, and there were a few choreographed costume tricks (I won't spoil the surprise!) which had evidently been well-rehearsed, with the results being truly delightful.
Despite a couple of opening-night mishaps which I have no doubt will be ironed out throughout the run, the overall experience was great fun, bringing a slice of Broadway magic to the Playhouse's stage. Giving a platform to amateur and student companies is one of the qualities the Playhouse is renowned for and it really comes into its own with this show. This musical extravaganza runs until Saturday - grab a ticket before they sell out!