Sister Act

2015

Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner, book by Douglas Carter Beane, lyrics by Glenn Slater and music by Alan Menken

Venue: Royal and Derngate;

NODA Awards:

  • NODA South Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes: Best Musical
  • NODA: Martin Tailby Trophy – 2nd Best Production (Musical, Youth & Panto) in whole of East Midlands Region

 

In October 2015 we presented Sister Act, the feel-amazing musical comedy. Featuring original music by Tony® and 8-time Oscar® winner Alan Menken, Sister Act tells the hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think to look – a convent!

Under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own. A sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship, Sister Act is a reason to Rejoice!

Read the Chron & Echo Article

Meet Our Fabulous Cast

Deloris Van Cartier – Beth Hodgson
A very strong determined lady who wants to make something of herself as a cabaret singer, she’s courageous, likeable and larger than life. Her life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think to look – a convent!

This is Beth’s second production with NMTC after playing the role of Ado Annie (Oklahoma!) in 2013. She studied at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) gaining a degree in performing arts and currently works for NMPAT as Head of Vocal Studies. Beth’s passion lies with choral conducting and teaching the next generation of singers. Beth is thrilled to be playing the part of Deloris and has thoroughly enjoyed rehearsing with her ‘fabulous’ sisters!

Mother Superior – Mindy Robinson
The ‘Head Nun’. She is ‘old school’ and does not like any sort of change; she’s a real ‘job’s worth’ woman.

Mindy studied theatre at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA before moving to England. Favourite roles include Mrs Malloy (Hello Dolly, NMTC) and was most recently seen as Martha Brewster (Arsenic & Old Lace, Masque Theatre). Mindy has also directed Little Shop of Horrors and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Masque to name a few. She’s completed five London Marathons and when not on stage, you will find her in the kitchen with her baking business, SophistiCake Creations.

Curtis – Matthew Berrill
The nightclub owner and gang leader that stops at nothing to get what he wants, even if it includes murder! When he says ‘Jump’, everyone answers ‘How high?’

Matthew has been involved in amateur theatre in Northamptonshire for many years and was last seen playing Emile De Becque (South Pacific) in 2014 with Northampton Musical Theatre Company. Other roles with NMTC include Curly (Oklahoma!), Mr Snow (Carousel), Freddie Eynsford-Hill (My Fair Lady), Moose (Crazy for You) and Barnaby (Hello Dolly!). In June this year he took on the role of Walter de Courcey in the URC (Wellingborough) production of Chess. With Northampton G&S Matthew has enjoyed the roles of Samuel (The Pirates of Penzance), Bill Bobstay (HMS Pinafore), Wilfred Shadbolt (The Yeoman of the Guard) and Lord Mountararat (Iolanthe).

Officer Eddie Souther – Pete Thorn
The policeman who is out to protect Deloris. He is a little timid and shy. He and Deloris went to school together, not that she’d remember him…

Pete grew up in the west coast of Scotland and joined NMTC after he moved “down south”. He is very excited to play Eddie as his first “good guy” role after playing some questionable characters: Harry (Blitz!), Ali Hakim (Oklahoma!) and Earl (Whistle Down The Wind). When not on stage he can be found drumming or managing NMTC’s profiles on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube as well as their website.

Sister Mary Roberts – Lillian Thorn
A very shy, and quiet Postulant (Nun-in-Training). Deloris helps her discover her confidence.

Lillian is currently working as a dance teacher in schools around Northampton. She has worked as dancer at Disneyland Paris, performed in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games and played the title roles in touring pantomimes of Aladdin and Dick Whittington. Lillian has also played principal roles in Whistle Down The Wind, and Blitz!, both with NMTC, and Guys and Dolls, Grease and Oklahoma! with her previous company in Scotland. This is Lillian’s 5th year with NMTC and she is delighted be playing Sister Mary Robert.

Sister Mary Patrick – Jay Snedker
A larger than life character that sees the good in everyone and everything.

Jay’s first production with NMTC was in 2007 as ensemble in A Chorus Line. Having been with the company now for 8 years she has had the privilege in playing the roles of Charlotte Sowerberry (Oliver!), Vivien (Sweet Charity), Cissy Blitztien (Blitz!) and Chorus/Ensemble in many other shows with the company. She is currently on maternity leave after the arrival of her second child and is thrilled to be playing her first principal role as Sister Mary Patrick. She is really looking forward to returning to perform on the Derngate stage once more with such a fantastic Cast.
Jay dedicates her performance to her mum: “she always believed in me and loved to watch me perform, this one’s for you. Thank you, love you always Mum xx”

Sister Mary Lazarus – Sally Whitestone
A bit of a ‘grump’! She was the choir mistress before Deloris arrives. Once she gets to know her, she does melt… a little!

Sally joined NMTC as Gertie Cummings in our 2000 production of Oklahoma! and has been playing chorus and cameo roles with the company for 15 years. She also performs with the Masque Theatre and is in pantomimes with both Inter-Church Productions and Moulton Players. Sally is very happy to be playing Sister Mary Lazarus in this year’s production of Sister Act.

Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours – Lisa Simpson
The pianist of the convent’s choir, unfortunately, she’s half deaf and away with the fairies!

Lisa joined NMTC in their 1998 production of Me & My Girl. Having now been with the company for 17 years, she has had the honour of performing in 14 of their productions over those years. Lisa was also NMTC’s first in-house director when she directed the musical “Blitz!” in May 2014, but is back on stage playing the comedy role of Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours.

Sister Mary Theresa – Dawn Hall
The oldest Nun in the convent.

Dawn has been involved with amateur theatre for over 40 years and appeared in many productions around the county. Her favourite roles include: Adelaide (Guys and Dolls), Vera (Mame), Maggie (42nd Street), Miss Hannigan (Annie) twice, Mrs Harcourt (Anything Goes) twice, Mrs Higgins (My Fair Lady), Sylvia (Stepping Out), Yenta (Fiddler on The Roof), and Sylvia (Bad Girls). Dawn recently enjoyed doing a comedy act with ‘A Slice Of Variety’. When not on stage Dawn is at Dallington Fitness and Wellbeing club or entertaining her great grandchildren.

Michelle – Katy Batchelor
One of Deloris’ feisty backing singers from Curtis’ club.

Katy first joined NMTC in 2010 taking the part of Gospel girl in Jesus Christ Superstar. Since then she has taken part in many other shows in Northamptonshire. Some of her roles have included: Laurey (Oklahoma), Cathy (The Last Five Years), Ensign Dinah Murphy (South Pacific), Charity (Anything Goes) and Carmen (Sweet Charity). Katy is really looking forward to playing Michelle in the forthcoming show and is very excited to be performing alongside such a fantastic cast!

Tina – Mikaela Woodgates
One of Deloris’ feisty backing singers from Curtis’ club.

Mikaela joined NMTC in 2004 with the role of Lorraine in 42nd Street and has now performed with the company for 11 years. Other favourite theatre appearances to date: Wizard of Oz (Castle and Spinney Theatre), Jack and the Beanstalk and Dick Whittington (Royal Theatre) and Think Floyd (Derngate). Mikaela studied Dance and Education at De Montfort University graduating in 2009 and then started her teaching path at Delapre Primary School. She is delighted to take on the role of Tina and Dance Captain for this year’s performance of Sister Act.

Monsignor O’Hara – Mark Woodham
He is the Mother Superior’s boss! The Pastor of a very small (and shrinking!) congregation. He is very grounded and likeable and can see the benefits of Deloris’s stay at the convent.

Mark has been a serving member of the “Amateurs” for 24 years and his most recent roles have been Moonface Martin (Anything Goes) and Boon (Whistle Down The Wind). His love of Sondheim musicals has recently seen him appear as The Wolf and Rapunzel’s Prince (Into the Woods, The Masque Theatre) and Mr Spencer (Merrily We Roll Along, in Sharnbrook Theatre).
Mark is also a member of the highly regarded Miss:Creates company and Kaye Tompkins’ ‘According to Mary’ Choir. He is married to Becky who is also in the company, ‘Master of the House’ from Les Miserable being their party piece!

TJ – Josh Wright
Curtis’s nephew, who is a sandwich short of a picnic, not the sharpest tool in the box!

Josh is 20 and is currently in his second year at Northampton College to pursue his dream to be a leading man on the West End stage. He has completed his A Levels at Malcolm Arnold Academy and wanted to further his education so that he would have the right skills under his belt for Drama schools next year. He has been singing since he was 7 and enjoys every minute of it! By attending local theatre shows at Derngate he has understood the determination he needs to have in order to be there himself. Josh has performed in numerous shows for the company alongside other companies and his studies. Josh would like to dedicate his performance to his Grandfather, John Williams, who has inspired him 100% to chase his dreams.

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Joey – Dan Hodson
A member of Curtis’s gang. This smooth character thinks all ladies will fall at his feet… even a Nun!

Dan started performing at the age of 18 when he joined NMTC’s production of The Boyfriend. Dan has then gone on to play many parts around the county such as: Noah Claypole (Oliver!), Wyatt (Crazy For You), Rick (A Slice Of Saturday Night, Miss:Creates), Mark (A Chorus Line), Barnaby Tucker (Hello Dolly, WAODS), Robbie Faye (A Man Of No Importance, Miss:Creates), Will Parker (Oklahoma), and Luther Billis (South Pacific). Dan is looking forward to being a part of Sister Act and very excited about playing the role of Joey.

Pablo – David Routledge
Another of Curtis’s henchmen of Spanish descent. He has a lot to say, though not everyone knows what…

David is thrilled to be making his NMTC début in Sister Act. Over the last 15 years, he has performed locally with Abbey Community Theatre and The Abbey Minstrels. He is the Head of Performing Arts at a local secondary school and has directed many productions including We Will Rock You, Grease and The 39 Steps. When not on stage, David commutes regularly to London where he enjoys seeing a range of traditional and contemporary performances. David has recently co-founded Juxta Productions, a new company for young people with a passion for the Performing Arts.

Ernie – Nick Hart
Curtis’ longest serving henchman.

Nick was a member of our Musical Director, Graham Tear’s choir last year and was roped into our 2014 production of South Pacific to take on the bass solo in “Nothing Like A Dame”! Nick has recently finished his A-Levels and is taking a gap year to concentrate on his music career. He enjoys singing Big Band music amongst other genres and is also a member of the County Youth Choir.

Drag Queen – Jame Bignell
One of the regulars at the local Dive Bar.

Jame has been with the company for over ten years, joining when he was 16 years old whilst studying for a performing arts course. His favourite part was Bobby (A Chorus Line), and he has also enjoyed playing Deputy Sheriff (Whistle Down the Wind) and Custus (Crazy For You). This year Jame is looking forward to being our Drag Queen, the role he wanted from the outset!

The Nuns of Queen of Angels Church

Samantha Perryman

Sam first appeared with NMTC in 1996 as Molly (Annie) when she was 8 years old. Since then she has performed in numerous shows, both dramas and musicals. Among her favourite roles are Jessica (The Merchant of Venice), Rosie (My Mother said I Never Should) and Gloria (Wait Until Dark, professional production) in 2000. Her previous productions with NMTC include 42nd Street, The Boyfriend, Crazy for You and more recently Oklahoma, Blitz! and Whistle Down the Wind in 2012 where she had her first leading role as Swallow. Sam is very excited to be performing in Sister Act but possibly not as excited as she is to be getting married in July this year!

Louise Swann

Originally from Shropshire, Louise joined NMTC when she was searching for a new am-dram group to join after moving to the area in 2008. She thoroughly enjoyed being in Oliver! and has been performing with the company ever since! Louise is very excited to be performing in Sister Act having watched the film so many times with her family when she was younger. She has very much loved being part of the NMTC family for the last six and a half years and has made some amazing friends and memories. She wishes to thank everyone for making it possible.

Helen Kennedy

Helen joined NMTC in 2005 for The Boyfriend and has since performed with them in over a dozen shows and concerts including South Pacific, Blitz! and Sweet Charity. Other theatre credits include: Road, Summerfolk (Royal Theatre), Stig of the Dump (Harborough Theatre), Macbeth (Educational tour), Oliver! (Derngate), Abigail’s Party, The Cherry Orchard (Uni of Northampton). Helen trained at the School of Arts at the University of Northampton, where she co-founded a theatre company and created and performed original shows including Ben, A Beautiful Mess and Damaged. Helen has also taken part in workshops with Frantic Assembly and Kneehigh.

Samantha Downes

Sam grew up in Northampton and joined the NMTC in 2013. This is her first production with the company after participating in many school productions and dance shows with Pitt-Draffen Academy of Dance. After discovering her love of musical theatre at the Derngate, any spare time of hers is filled with singing and dancing. She’s thrilled to finally be performing on the Derngate stage in her first big production alongside such a talented cast.

Georgia Mullen

Georgia moved to Northampton 13 years ago after graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. Georgia has taught music over the last 11 years at Guilsborough School, Moulton School, and Magdalen College School. Georgia recently left her post at Northampton Academy to spend more time with her family and run the family business. This also gives her the opportunity to focus on her real passion, singing. Georgia’s previous shows include Mack and Mabel and Beauty and the Beast. This will be Georgia’s second production with NMTC after joining the cast in South Pacific last year. “I am thrilled to be taking part in Sister Act and am looking forward to what I know will be a truly fabulous show”.

Helen Loynes

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of Helen’s first performance with NMTC and she is thrilled this year to be performing in Sister Act. When not rehearsing or performing with NMTC Helen spends her weekend evenings singing in clubs and cabaret venues around the UK. As a complete contrast to this, when not on stage, Helen will undoubtedly be found looking after her ever increasing number of pet chickens!

Geri Anderson

Geri joined NMTC in 2003. Her first show with the company was 42nd Street which still remains her favourite to this day. Since then she has performed in Anything Goes, Whistle Down the Wind, Oklahoma!, Blitz!, South Pacific and the spring concerts. When she is not on stage, Geri is Deputy Head at Akeley Wood Junior School and loves directing school productions and taking her school choir to sing at amazing venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and the O2. She can’t wait to be a nun in Sister Act!

Becky Woodham

Becky has been part of NMTC for 24 years, finally taking the lead role last year as Mrs Blitztein (Blitz!). Along with her husband Mark, she is also part of Miss:Creates, playing various ‘characters’ including Margaret Grace (A Man of No Importance). Her love of Sondheim musicals has taken her to The Masque Theatre for Into The Woods and most recently Merrily We Roll Along for Sharnbrook Mill Theatre. Becky has also had the privilege of singing in the haunting choral piece According to Mary by Kaye Tompkins. She looks forward to donning the habit and singing her heart out!

Laura Lloyd

Laura grew up in Northampton and she developed a love of singing at an early age. She has performed with numerous musical theatre companies and choirs since childhood. Some of her favourite shows include Little Shop of Horrors, Bare and playing Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz). Laura joined NMTC this year and is eagerly anticipating performing in Sister Act.

Kathryn Farrar

Kathryn has been with NMTC since joining the cast of Oklahoma! in 2000. Since then she has been in the ensemble for a range of shows and concerts including Oliver, Carousel, Hello Dolly, 42nd Street and My Fair Lady. Kathryn is delighted to be back on the stage with the fabulous cast of Sister Act this year after spending the last few years undertaking behind the scenes work as an NMTC Committee member.

Lauren Kane

Lauren is from Northern Ireland and joined NMTC this year. She has worked with numerous theatre companies throughout the UK and studied Performing Arts. Lauren got her love for musical theatre from the age of 7 playing her first role as Gretl (Sound of Music) other roles she has enjoyed playing include Bet (Oliver!) and Wendy Jo (Footloose). She is really excited about Sister Act and being on stage with such a talented cast.

Chloe Taylor

Chloe has been performing from a young age- with musical theatre always being a big part of her life. She has participated in various school productions and will continue to be involved with performing arts at her school as she studies her A Levels. Chloe attends Starlight Stage School, where she competes in dance competitions throughout the year and with NMTC she played the role of Franie (Blitz!). This is Chloe’s first production as part of the adult company and she is very excited to perform with NMTC in Sister Act.

Stephanie Smith

Stephanie first joined NMTC back in 2000 for Oklahoma where she played the part of Dream Laurie since then she has enjoyed taking part in many productions with the company. Her favourite roles to date include Anytime Annie (42nd Street) and Kristine (A Chorus Line) which gave her the opportunity to fulfil her great love of dancing! Stephanie is very much looking forward to performing with her fellow nuns in Sister Act!

Male Ensemble

Matthew Loynes

Sister Act is Matthew’s fourth show with NMTC having previously performed in Oklahoma!, Blitz! and South Pacific. He is also a member of the Northamptonshire County Youth Choir. Earlier this year he travelled to America with the Northampton School for Boys’ Jazz Vocal Group where he had the opportunity to perform at a variety of venues including Disneyland Hollywood. This will probably be Matthew’s last show with NMTC for a while as he will be going off to university but he hopes to return in the future.

Stefan C. Attrill

Stefan’s interest in theatre began in 1973 after following his sister’s footsteps; actively performing in Summer & Christmas seasons with Young Vectis Players, Isle of Wight. Also persuaded by his mum, Stefan developed in interest in Ballroom & Latin dance; achieving 5th place in a European Dance competition.
In the late 80s / early 90s, he trained with Phoenix Performing Arts Trust and the University of Warwick developing the skill of both classical and expressive mime. His ‘big break’ came when achieving a contract with Renault entertaining guests. He has also appeared on TV, Films, Commercials, including corporate training videos too.
Stefan joined ‘The Amateurs’ in 1998 and first performed with them in their production of ‘Me & My Girl’ and has been enthusiastically involved since. This includes a stint on the Committee collecting membership fees; not an easy task!
Favourite shows performed with NMTC include 42nd Street in 2004 due to the complexity of dance routines and ‘buzz’ shared by performers and audiences alike; and Jesus Christ Superstar in 2010 for its intimacy amongst cast members.

Keith Loynes

Keith’s initial involvement with The Company was back in the 90s, including roles as Sid Pornick (Half A Sixpence), President F.D. Roosevelt (Annie), Village Beggar (Fiddler on the Roof) – a normal Presidential career path! Unfortunately due to the pressure of work & family commitments, Keith had to take a hiatus from shows, however, he has changed his work/life balance in recent years and is back enjoying all that involvement in the shows provides. His wife & son are also in The Company.

Mark Maryan

Mark started his musical career back stage with NMTC, but was convinced into the spotlight to crucify our Lord as a Roman Soldier in our 2010 production of Jesus Christ Superstar! Since then he has been on stage again for Sweet Charity and Oklahoma! as well as performing with our Concert Group. Mark also organises or poster distribution, marketing and corporate sponsors, as well as helping out with Front of House and fundraising. When not working on NMTC activities, he enjoys windsurfing and snowboarding.

Chris Willis

Chris has been a member of the Company for six years and sings with the Company’s Concert Group, which performs regularly for community groups around the county. With the main Company, Chris has performed as part of the ensemble and taken minor roles in productions of Blitz!, Jesus Christ Superstar and Whistle Down The Wind

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South Pacific at Royal & Derngate last year set a remarkable benchmark for an “amateur” production, with a large talented cast, superb vocals, sets and a polish up there with a professional production. Sister Act, this years production from the Northampton Musical Theatre Company was more of the same, but perhaps taken up a notch or two.

Sister Act is a musical based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy and was first performed in 2009. Written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, it is a likable and fun musical which genuinely came as a surprise to me.

The opening scene at Curtis’s Bar and Nightclub is to be honest not the best though and genuinely didn’t fill me with much hope. It feels as if it gives nothing to the cast, although it creates the premise of the story coupled with the incident outside the bar. Likewise, I didn’t take much to the Police Station scene either, so it didn’t bode well.

When we reach the Queen Of Angels Cathedral though, this show becomes a different world. From the moment we have to listen to the excruciatingly painful choir and the magnificent first rendition from the Mother Superior (Mindy Robinson) of ‘Here Within These Walls’ we are very much up and running. The nuns are indeed magnificent and once we are contained within the bosom of the cathedral, this becomes a delightful feast on the ears, eyes and that funny bone.

At the centre of the action throughout is a star making performance from Beth Hodgson as Deloris Van Cartier. She works her way into our hearts from the abrasive, almost horrible character at the beginning to the spirited and lovable person she learns through the nuns to become. Her partnership with Mother Superior is marvellous, with magic moments like the confession box scene a delight.

Mark Woodham’s character of Monsignor O’Hara also goes through a rather delightful development. All prim and proper to begin with and later showing that he has the killer moves himself. Also another one hoping to have the killer moves is Pete Thorn’s Officer Eddie Souther, out to get the girl but feeling awkward about it at all times. His sorrowful ‘I Could Be That Guy’ also gets to showcase another area of this superb production, the costume work. That is one neat, neat trick and oh so, smoothly done.

The baddie of the piece Curtis is played by Matthew Berrill, who was incredible in last years South Pacific and is no less a disappointment here, although he sadly has less to do. What he does get to do though is perform by far the funniest song of the musical ‘When I Find My Baby’. A most deliciously black comic song and performed to perfection. His accomplices are no less disappointing. with Dan Hodson swapping his South Pacific coconut bikini for the most ridiculous wig and with T J (Josh Wright) and Pablo (David Routledge) they perform the tremendous crowd pleasing ‘Lady In The Long Black Dress’ with comic brilliance.

The nuns include a magnificent array of talent from Lillian Thorn’s gentle Sister Mary Robert, to Sally Whitestone’s wonderfully miserable Sister Mary Lazarus. Also great credit to Dawn Hall as the Turin Shroud aged Sister Mary Theresa. She does indeed wield a mean walking cane.

The sets and stage work in South Pacific were a surprise, however with Sister Act the bar has indeed been raised with busy stage crew work from Weekes Baptiste, Katie De Stefano and their team keeping a genuinely large amount of scene work moving along. The sets themselves, particularly for the cathedral are nothing short of magnificent, for what is I repeat, an amateur performance.

So a talented and magnificently large cast of 35 have taken to the stage and created a wonderful and surprising production of Sister Act. It is and will always be remembered as fabulous. A must see as the packed audience last night (and looking like every night) found out. Roll on October 2016 and what is sure to be an incredible Grease. In the meantime, get your act together and go see this near perfect production.

A Small Mind

A Small Mind

From curtain up until the finale, NMTC’s production of “Sister Act” had the WOW factor in bucket loads.

Successful films don’t always translate well to the stage and I remember being rather underwhelmed by the show when I saw it a few years ago. This presentation, however, had a great vibrancy and vitality which reached out across the footlights and enveloped the audience.

The story of the piece is pretty well known – would be cabaret star, Deloris Van Cartier, witnesses a murder carried out by her lover. Fleeing the scene she is placed in protective custody in, of all places, a convent. She proceeds to wreak havoc being totally unaware of the way of life within a religious establishment. Her lack of discipline adds to the concerns of the Mother Superior, who is already aware that the convent is in imminent danger of closure due to the lack of funding and support. With Deloris’ help, the nuns find their voices and by the show’s end, she and the Mother Superior have learned to appreciate one another’s good points. The story is told with humour and a poignancy which gives the show a great audience appeal.

Beth Hodgson made an excellent Deloris. She demonstrated a fine ability to hold centre stage; she has a good strong voice and dealt with the complexities of her character really well. Mindy Robinson, as the Mother Superior, also excelled showing good acting skills but just as importantly, the role gave her the chance to show off her beautiful singing voice as in ‘Here Within These Walls’.

Matthew Berrill (Curtis) in a change from his usual role as the hero, managed to become a very believable villain ably (or not so ably) supported by his dim witted sidekicks: Joey, TJ and Pablo. Dan Hodson’s Joey had the audience in stitches with his rendition of ‘Lady in The Long Black Dress’.

I was also impressed with Lillian Thorn’s portrayal of the young postulant Sister Mary Robert; her delivery of ‘The Life I Never Led’ must have touched many hearts. I enjoyed the performances of Sally Whitestone as the pessimistic Sister Mary Lazarus and Jay Snedker’s as the ever smilingly optimistic Sister Mary Patrick. Both characterizations seemed to me, exactly right. The rest of the cast gave strong support.

Almost all the ensemble work was of high quality sung with exuberance and a joy that comes with enthusiasm. Graham Tear, as chorus master had done a great job. Graham also took on the role of conductor and used his 12 piece orchestra to good effect. The sound and lighting were generally food and the set provided a suitable background to the show. The many scene changes were generally effected well by company members.

My congratulations to everyone who was involved with this fantastic production of ‘Sister Act’, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening with you – this was a show of which you can all be justly proud. Well done!

Jenny Chandler

East Midlands Representative, NODA

First, appropriately, a confession…

I went to this show with low expectations, having seen it at the London Palladium a few years ago – a dull production, the only memorable features being the spectacular singing of the nuns and the presence of Ian Lavender as Monsignor O’Hara.

But for me this was a very different show – funny, vibrant and very entertaining from beginning to end.

The key protagonists in Sister Act are the conservative and devout Mother Superior and the nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier, who is avoiding the deadly attention of her former lover by joining a convent. Both roles are very demanding in terms of singing and acting. Mindy Robinson was excellent as the Mother Superior, serious and at times completely exasperated with a situation not of her making. Mindy has a fine singing voice which gave full expression to her songs – I especially enjoyed ‘Here Within These Walls’, a clever, funny song sung with subtlety and intelligence. Beth Hodgson was a huge presence on stage – cast just right as Doloris. Beth has a great voice, which did justice to everything she sang and she accomplished the transformation from brash hedonist to the respcetful and grounded young woman she becomes by the end of the show with aplomb. Smashing!

The nuns were all terrific – lovely ensemble work. Lisa Simpson made a totally convincing ‘away with the fairies’ Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours, and Sally Whitestone a grumpy but also very funny Sister Mary Lazarus. Especially impressive was Lillian Thorn as Sister Mary Robert – her solo The Life I Never Led beautifully expressing the young nun’s uncertainty about her future in the convent.

Mark Woodham as Monsignor O’Hara seemed to gain confidence as the show went on and I enjoyed Pete Thorn’s portrayal of the shy police office Eddie Souther – who eventually gets his girl.

Matthew Berrill was very convincing as nightclub owner/hoodlum Curtis and there was a lot of fun to be had from the performances of Josh Wright, David Routledge and Dan Hodson – who had the audience (especially the ladies!) in the palm of his hand with his verse of Lady in the Long Black Dress – as a trio of ineffectual henchmen.

Accents and diction were very good.

All accompanied by an excellent 12 piece orchestra led by Graham Tear. On the whole sound quality and balance was good, though there were on or two problems with microphones. For the most part lighting was good, though there were also one or two notable glitches here too.

The set, from Scenic Projects, was excellent, with all the other elements giving the whole show a professional feel. Scene changes – and there are many – were well-managed by the backstage crew.

A nice, rather meaningful story, great songs and lots of comedy (some of which I thought the audience missed on the night I went) made for a very fine show – so, thanks to Northampton Musical Theatre Group, for me, a complete redemption of Sister Act has taken place.

Alex Wood

Sardines

Tonight, the packed out auditorium at the Derngate Theatre, Northampton was converted with exultant cries of Hallelujah and Amen as Northampton Musical Theatre Company, one of the country’s oldest amateur theatre dramatic societies in their country, brought the house down with their latest production of Sister Act. What’s not to love about an uplifting, feel good musical comedy written by musical theatre genius Alan Menken, who has penned so many world renowned musicals from Little Shop of Horrors to The Little Mermaid, a gospel choir of all-singing all- dancing, rapping nuns and even a sparkly Jesus.

The plot of Sister Act, based on the film of the same name starring Whoppie Goldberg, follows the story of up and coming nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier, whose world is turned upside down when she witnesses her boyfriend murder a police informant and, for her own protection is forced into hiding. Within the sanctuary of the convent, Deloris, at first reluctant to follow the rules of Mother Superior, coaches the nuns into a global gospel sensation, that enables them to raise enough money to save the convent from being sold. When the world of liberty and order collide, each tempers the other and Deloris finds, for likely the first time in her life, a family, a sisterhood who believe and stand by her even at gunpoint.

If ever there was a character written for Northampton vocal coach Beth Hodgeson, this would be it. As a former pupil, it was a joy and pleasure to see Beth get the opportunity to shine and she can be proud, along with the rest of the cast, that their performances tonight were truly inspirational. What really brought the piece to life was the humour the cast brought to the production created through their comic timing, injections and characterisation; it was obvious to me that the cast had great fun putting this production together.

In the smaller group and solo numbers of act one, confidence and conviction was lacking at times and despite the music being practically faultless, the movement in these numbers needed to be bigger to reach the back of the auditorium. I felt the opening rendition of ‘Take Me To Heaven’ needed to be sexed up a lot more so the audience sees even more of a character shift post nun-trevention. I also believe ‘When I Find My Baby’ would benefit greatly from Curtis and the guys really enjoying, almost salivating over how he is going to kill her, just so even more danger and humour is created at this point. A couple of technical elements not being put into place correctly also meant that some of the transitions were slow and this did have a slight negative affect on pace. A few special mentions… the first for Sister Mary Robert (Lillian Thor) who really brought the house down with ‘The Life I Never Lead’ and always sang her heart out despite an intermittent stage mic. The second to Mother Superior (Mindy Robinson) who put in an incredibly tear-inducing performance of ‘ I Haven’t Got A Prayer’, highlighting the real moral conflict going on inside this characters mind.

Overall, a great production one that everyone involved with can be proud of and we at Live Arts Connect recommend if you can, to go to see it. Sister Act runs from 28th October 2015 every night at 7:30pm at The Derngate Theatre, Northampton. Tickets, between £10.00 and £21.00 can be purchased by visiting www.royalandderngate.co.uk or by calling 01604 624 811. For links for more information about the company search Northampton Musical Theatre Company, on Facebook and Twitter or go their website at http://www.nmtc.me.uk.

Daniel Seath

Live Arts Connect

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