ArtSpoken & Reviews

Sister Act will have you shouting for joy

Leon van Nierop
07/18/2015 09:38:03

Leon van Nierop: This stage show is original, feisty, thrilling and with an electrifying energy that had the premiere crowd on their feet.

After the unexpected surprise of the 1992 sleeper movie hit starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act with its show stopping numbers and over the top acting, it was with slight apprehension that I sat down to watch Janice Honeyman’s production, knowing full well that the well-known songs from the film will not be featured. As a matter of fact, none of the musical numbers in the stage production are familiar and you are not likely to sing or hum them as you leave the theatre. So there is no recognition factor.

This means that the director and cast have to work three times as hard to pull the audience in and try to recreate some of the magic of the film. So let’s get one thing straight right from the start. They needn’t recreate anything. This stage show is original, feisty, thrilling and with an electrifying energy that had the premiere crowd on their feet.

This production is not an imitation. It is a reimagining and total reinvention of a well-known story that will have you shouting with joy. Janice Honeyman and her cast ignite the theatre from the word go to present a vivid, mind-blowing show that is visually pleasing and overpowering, almost as if you are watching a film. Honeyman excels with each production and achieves the impossible. She makes the show unpredictable through sheer innovation and originality. She has directed a show that is better than the movie.

She manages to use (and fill!) the stage as if it were a movie screen with infectious rhythms, brilliant moves and a total control of space. The scene where Deloris runs away from the mob after seeing a murder, and the eventual madcap slapstick dashing around during the climax has to be seen to be believed.

But the highlight was the entry of the nuns where we get to know the characters. Each nun sings her own hilarious, chaotic note that turns the show into a cacophony of sound. That might be one of the funniest and most unexpected entrances ever. True genius. But soon the 15 nuns, each with her own individuality and personality, rhythm and voice, set the tone for a production that never, for a moment, drops its energy level. As a matter of fact it elevates the energy with each new scene. So make no mistake: boredom is not a word that you will use after leaving the theatre.

The production design by Declan Randall is sumptuous, magnificent and economical as the interior of a church effortlessly changes to a cramped police office or a stinking part of town. Or a table with formal, frustrated nuns trying to gulp down the next helping of mutton effortlessly slides into view. The scene changes are as razor sharp and effective as film editing.

The performances are first-rate. Forget anything you remember from Kathy Najimi, Maggie Smith or Whoopi Goldberg’s performances in the original film. The South African cast shines with the triumphant Candida Mosoma stealing every scene as Deloris, a singer who witnesses a mob killing and is forced to hide in a convent. The way she prances around on stage, but also manages to blend in with the sisters, is portrayed with a vivid energy and imaginative singing and acting that blows your mind.

Kate Normington delivers a show stopper near the end with grace and elegance but also slightly tongue in the cheek, while the “thugs” each has his own temperament and bad-boy nature that blends in with the production’s style. But it is the transformation of Zano from the nerdish Sweaty Eddy to a Romeo of sorts that is just as impressive.

Sister Act is better than the movie could ever be. It dazzles with its finely timed choreography and sweeps you off your feet with its dazzling ensemble acting and spirited, enthusiastic dancing. It will blow your mind right out of the winter chills.

Sister Act
With Candida Mosoma, Kate Normington and Keith Smith
Directed by Janice Honeyman
At the Mandela at Joburg Theatre runs until August 16 2015.

Leon van Nierop is one of South Africa's best-known and most respected film critics. He has reviewed films for 34 years for every medium; from television and radio to magazines, newspapers and the Internet. He has lectured on film criticism for 14 years throughout the country and headed the TUT film school in Pretoria for 4 years. He has also written two books on film analysis, the most recent being Movies Made Easy published by van Schaiks. He has also served as judge for several short film and film competitions, is part of the SAFTA jury awarding Golden Horns to the best local film talent, and writes extensively on film for several publications. He also served as professor in film at TUT and also headed that film school for 4 years. He has just completed a stint as presenter, scriptwriter, voice-over artist and co-producer for DEKAT on SABC 3. He has written 23 novels and several TV-series and dramas and is currently working on another novel. He is also a newsreader and continuity presenter for RSG on SABC radio and serves as their major film critic.
Related Venue:
Joburg Theatre Complex, Loveday Street Braamfontein Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa