Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Blessed be the music makers


Sister Act

The Arcadians

The Crescent Theatre


THE Arcadians are an incredibly talented, multi-aged musical theatre company based in Birmingham and in their production of Sister Act, they welcomed us into their sisterhood in a world of glitter and soul.

Directed and choreographed by Mary Johns, she and the entire company gave us a night of roaring laughter and a great party atmosphere.

Sister Act can be described as one of the most feel good musicals of its time. The hilarious Catholic comedy's stage production is based on the 1992 smash hit film starring Whoopi Goldberg.

When the show-stopping diva Delores van Cartier witnesses her boyfriend shoot someone, she must hide away to avoid his wrath. In the most inconspicuous of places, Delores finds herself hidden away in a convent and must act like the nun she is not until all is safe again.

Most audiences watching the stage production will already know and love the film, especially Goldberg’s classic portrayal of comedic flamboyance and sassy wit.

In the Arcadians’ production, the role was taken on by the superb Nicole Appleby. She was certainly unafraid to fill the shoes of her cinematic predecessor and, like Goldberg, was indeed the star of the show and deserved her standing ovation.

Her personal take on the character and individual characteristics were incredibly funny and at times heart-touching. Moments within her role were reflected wonderfully through Appleby’s outstanding on stage skill.

There were many shining moments, but one in particular bought tears to some audienccast in rehearsale member’s eyes as she sang Sister Act. Her soulful voice throughout the performance had the power to take the show to a whole new level. Appleby was a marvellous pleasure to watch from the opening number to grand finale.

The Holy Order of Arcadians taking a break in rehearsals

Maggie Smith played a fine part as Mother Superior in the original film, however it was Sarah Evans who took the part in this production. Evans had a lovely on stage presence, especially when entertaining the audience with solo musical numbers. She handled the strong character with brilliant precision.

What makes Sister Act so iconic is the feel-good addition of song and music. In the stage production, Alan Menken’s score and music is in a class of its own. On stage, we see original songs that fit well with the story. He creates original tunes for the stage in order to create a totally new style. The chorus of nuns, equally engaging took the score in their stride in unique Arcadian fashion to produce a story of varied characters and beautiful choral sounds. Lisa Blissitt as Sister Mary Lazarus gave everyone a chuckle in a moment of holy gangster rapping.

This production was incredibly high in calibre and the professionalism of the company on stage was second to none. The set was an impressively large structure which served as the convent, various bars and all other places of mischief and fun. There were unfortunately difficulties within the technical department. Slow transitions marred the high standards that actors strived to achieve on stage and for reasons unknown, the interval was unexpectedly longer due to technical faults. The audience however did not seem to mind on the technical errors. They were having a good time being involved with the on stage antics.

As for the villains, a farcical gang was made up of the wonderfully entertaining Mark Heath as Joey, Daniel Jackson as Pablo and the particularly funny Lee Saczac playing the part of goofy, but loveable TJ. All were brilliant at depicting the bullies in the most amusing of ways. They were led by Jonathan Blake as ringleader Curtis and although he could have afforded to be more menacing within the role, he had a great musicality. He was particularly entertaining within his solo of When I Find My Baby.

Other actors were also impressive in their roles such as the fantastically jolly Frank Foley as Priest Monsignor O’Hara. Mairead Mallon played Sister Mary Robert in a beautifully meek way with the voice of an angel and Laura Peters was incredibly funny within the role of Sister Mary Patrick.

The Arcadians should be proud of what they have created. With the inspiring efforts from all within the company, a homage was definitely paid to the successful musical. The company invited the audience to their party of a loving community and infectious fun. Despite of the technical issues, the company’s dedication and passion shone through and a good night was had by all. To 09-05-15

Elizabeth Halpin


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