If there is anything that will get you to church services this December/January period, it has to be Joseph Patrick and Maurice Galpern’s production of Sister Act The Musical at the LOWER OSSINGTON THEATRE, TORONTO.
Grab your bibles, dust off your rosary beads and iron out the creases in your habit, as these nuns are about to take you to musical heaven.
If there has ever been a show I never get tired of watching perform LIVE, it has to be SISTER ACT. In fact, after seeing it performed twice in the West End of London (UK), four times in Ireland and once in Scotland, I think I can now call myself an expert in this area. However, despite an identical story-line everywhere I go, the cast and crew of each production add their own taste and energy to this fabulous act.
This time around it was Toronto’s turn to awaken the dormant fan in me, and by God…they did not disappoint. For those people who have been living under a rock and are not familiar with the sensation that was “Sister Act” the movie, I will give you a very brief catch up. Sister Act, tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a struggling lounge singer trying to make it big in the establishment of her married lover and mob boss Curtis. After witnessing her shady boyfriend murder a former employee; with the help of his cronies, she takes off running with them in close pursuit. Reaching the police station, she gives her statement to a shy, nervous cop called Eddie, whom she soon recognizes as a guy from her high school past. Relying on Eddie to protect her, she entrusts him with her safety. But what he has in store for her, is beyond anything Deloris could have imagined. He packs her off to “Mary Queen of Angels” convent to assume the role of a nun, until the court hearing comes up. But until that unforeseen date, she must act like a nun, pray like a nun and follow all the rules set down by the stern, powerful Mother Superior. But as a woman who never lets anyone tell her what to do, Deloris sets out to take over the nuns choir; creating her own mini Las Vegas and Hollywood within the silent walls of the nunnery. Despite Curtis slowly piecing together where she is hiding, Deloris and the hilarious sisters of the Lord, put the fun back into the nun and what follows will have you all laughing from beginning to end.
Portraying the role of Deloris, originally made famous by the legend Whoopi Goldberg, is Amaka Umeh. With already stunning reviews flooding in for this amazing actress and singer, it is clear to see she is a crowd-pleaser.
However, on the night I attended, the role of this “nun-on-the-run” was taken over by Amaka’s understudy Kayla Christyne Gerber. Not only a fellow cast member, but also the production’s dance captain…Kayla accepted those sparkly, sequin boots and nun attire, and made the role her own. She strutted her stuff across the wonderful, ever-changing set, and was the true embodiment of what we all remember her movie counterpart was.
She had the attitude, the moves, the passion, the drive and most of all, a great set of pipes to allow her to bring the show to life, through its out-of-this-world song selection. She had the audience shimmying to songs like Fabulous Baby and Take Me To Heaven, and had my colleague and I crying to my favorite song of all time…SISTER ACT. This particular song has such meaning to it, and always pulls at the heart strings on those who have close bonds with that important sister in your life. With every song written and composed by Alan Menkin and Glenn Slater; well-known for the music behind Beauty & The Beast, Enchanted, The Little Mermaid and many more, I’m sure you can understand why these numbers are as catchy as they are.
But what of the hilarious ladies, or as Deloris would call them, The Divas Who Believa?” The cast who played the nuns were perfect and portrayed their characters with the perfect mixture of humor and heart. Sam Hancock (Sr. Mary Martin of Tours) and Morgan O’Grady (Sr. Mary Theresa) were delightful to watch and injected comedy into every scene. And Catherine Wylee had the crowd punching the air as she dropped a beat with her religious raps, as Sr. Mary Lazarus. The famous duo made up of Sr. Mary Patrick (Chelsea Jayne Bray) and Sr. Mary Robert (Autumn-Joy Dames) were popular with the crowds, working so well together and staying true to the original roles. At one point, Sr. Mary Robert sings a song called The Life I Never Led, which will make you want to go out and chase your dreams, as soon as the musical ends.
But the person who lifted the roof right off the building was Amy Holden; who held the high role of Mother Superior in the show. Words cannot describe how amazing this girl’s acting and vocal talents are. Like every version of Sister Act: The Musical I have seen across the globe, the role of Mother Superior is of such importance in Deloris’ journey, that you need someone as powerful as Amy Holden to play this iconic role. Her rendition of Here Within These Walls will make your heart flutter, and her take on I Haven’t Got A Prayer, will leave your smiling throughout.
Throughout the musical, you will see and hear toe-tappingly great songs, accompanied by on-point choreography and great set transformations. Then throw in the stellar cast of the Lower Ossington Theatre, and you have yourself one hell of a show. As Kayla Christyne Gerber received a standing ovation in the end, I even felt tears of joy in my own eyes for her.
If you want a show that will brighten your day, and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside…this is for you. With X Factor UK star Alexandra Burke, Broadway and movie star Patina Miller, West End regular Cynthia Erivo, and Disney star Raven Symone all stepping into Deloris’ thigh highs, it just proves how popular this musical actually is; on a worldwide scale.
Performances are currently at The LOWER OSSINGTON THEATRE, 100A Ossington Avenue, Toronto, with shows held from Thursday through to Sunday.
The musical is on stage from now until January 29th 2017. If you want something fun to attend over the Holidays or are looking for the perfect gift to enjoy after the Christmas festivities in January, then purchase your tickets now by clicking HERE or buy at the theatre box office.
Dancing Nuns, Hilarious Hitmen and Singing Sensations…what more could you want? #BlessOurShow