The Mayflower stage is stuffed to overflowing with talent at the moment. Sister Act is in town and director/choreographer Craig Revel-Horwood’s cast are truly multi-talented; actor/musicians who act, sing, dance and play their own accompaniment.
And therein, paradoxically, lies the show’s greatest strength and greatest flaw.
A stage-musical is simply not real life; people really do not break into song in the queue at the cafe, but it is a convention we accept, the unreal become real.
Revel-Horwood’s conceit – having the actors openly carry and play instruments in character – is, perhaps, a step too far; it distracts, limits cast movement and removes the last shred of reality. When heroine Dolores Van Cartier’s life is being threatened by criminals carrying guitars and guns, the dramatic truth of the threat disappears altogether. Revel-Horwood’s tendency to both pantomimic direction and – in the case of the men in particular - characterisation simply adds layers to the failure of the drama.
Alexandra Burke, as Dolores, is not the strongest actress, but you cannot deny the woman her voice. Alongside her, Karen Mann as the Mother Superior and Alice Stokoe as Sister Mary Robert shine and Susannah Van Den Berg, as the endearing Sister Mary Patrick, has the most wonderful out-of-control soprano.
Until June 17.