Stage: Sister Act – Playhouse Drama, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
NICK Jourdan, for decades the director and producer of the annual musical staged and toured by Johannesburg’s Northcliff High School, has seen some stellar talent pass through his teen ranks over the years – including current stage professionals Jonathan Roxmouth, Carmen Pretorius and Kyle Grant.
Hard to believe that the school has been bringing its annual musical to Durban’s Playhouse Drama for two decades, the first being a 1999 production of Chicago and the last being 2017’s delightful Spamalot.
This year’s show, a lively musical version of the hit 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy Sister Act, is another feather in Jourdan’s cap, and of particular note for being not only massively entertaining but highlighting some excellent vocal potential, most notably among the girls in the cast.
In his own words, in the Sister Act programme, Jourdan acknowledges that teenagers are a handful, yet he mostly produces a very high standard from the youths, and this year proves no exception.
Of particular note is exuberant Grade 9 pupil Pride Mncube who is a constant standout, a confident and mature performer with a powerful voice, truly excelling as the character played in the film by Goldberg. Mncube is certainly a name to watch.
The stage production, featuring fun songs by lyricist Alan Manken (Oscar-winner for a number of Disney animated successes) and composer Glenn Slater, has Mncube as wild-haired, disco fan and wannabe singing star, Deloris van Cartier, who we first meet in a gold get-up with knee-high lilac boots.
She is romantically linked with the cool but sinister Curtis, a thuggish, married club owner who is played with maturity, aplomb and a fine Brooklyn accent by Grade 11 pupil Matthew Vey, who was every bit as good as Arthur in last year’s Spamalot. Lots of potential there.
When Deloris witnesses Curtis and his sidekicks killing someone, she flees, finding help from former school colleague Eddie (a sweet, husky-voiced Gabriel Solomons), now a cop who still has a crush on her. Eddie helps Deloris out by hiding her in a convent, to pose as a nun, while the heat cools down.
It isn’t long before the disco diva is ruffling the feathers of Reverend Mother (Tiana de Abreu), intriguing tall Monsignor O’Hara (Luke Wessels) and befriending her fellow nuns – an assortment of colourful personalities in which standouts include shy novice Sister Mary Robert (a beautiful-voiced Shannon Howard, who performs the showstopping The Life I Never Led) and ever-jovial Sister Mary Patrick (a well-cast Ivana Beattie).
The musical, set in 1978 and with fun disco-inspired choreography and some clever dialogue, hits its stride when Deloris starts taking charge of the convent choir, which goes from zero to hero and gets invited to sing before the Pope. The tale is also not without a romantic twist.
There are some slight bum notes and minor wobbly moments, as is to be expected from an amateur production, but Jourdan and his team have done a fine job and Durban audiences would do well to attend this production, which is charming, amusing and uplifting.
Sister Act runs only until Sunday, with tickets costing only R70 each for the 7.30pm show today (Wednesday, June 27). Tickets for other performances cost R110 each.
Shows are also at 7.30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, while there is a 2pm Saturday matinee and the last performance is at 3pm on Sunday,
Pensioners get R110 tickets for R90 for performances from Thursday to Sunday. Booking is at Computicket outlets.