FEISTY, funny and fabulous, Alexandra Burke is simply phenomenal as Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act, the hit musical based on the blockbuster movie of the same name.
* * * * *
So much so, that within minutes of taking to the stage, all thoughts of Whoopi Goldberg are dispelled and Burke has claimed the role as her own.
It’s a warm, joyous performance that never falters and marks the 28-year-old out as a musical theatre performer at the top of her game.
She has it all; rich, powerful vocals, comic physicality, and a tenderness when playing emotion that convinces.
The story is straight forward: It’s 1977 and having witnessed a murder, nightclub singer Deloris agrees to give evidence against her ex, to put him away for life.
There’s just one problem, if he gets to her first he’ll kill her. To save her life, and his key witness, local copper ‘Sweaty Eddie’ arranges for the singer to hide in the local convent - disguised as a nun.
It’s not long, however, before Deloris is drawing attention to herself and her holy sisters, putting them all at risk.
If Burke is the star of the show, she has top notch support from her fellow nuns.
Susannah Van Der Berg is gloriously funny as a scene-stealing Sister Mary Patrick and Liz Kitchen is on great form as the taciturn Sister Mary Lazarus.
Sarah Goggin’s Sister Mary Robert, meanwhile, is a fragile creation with an unexpectedly big voice.
While some male members of the cast have a tendency to over-play the comedy, director Craig Revel-Horwood never allows the cartoon nature of their performances to obscure the story, cutting through the campery with poignant and touching moments, never more so than in scenes involving Karen Mann’s finely crafted and totally believable Mother Superior.
Mann anchors the entire production and matches Burke every step of the way.
Packed with catchy tunes (many are pastiches of the cheesy disco hits of the day), the action unfolds on Matthew Wright’s atmospherically Gothic set, transformed throughout by Richard G Jones dynamic lighting.
And while the cast may all be actor/musicians, instruments in hand throughout, Revel-Horwood finds natural moments for the ensemble to gather and play together.
So, boogie along to the Playhouse and ‘get on down to the hymns’, this show really is fabulous, baby.
Run ends 15 April