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Review: SISTER ACT at Chateau Neuf, Oslo

Review: SISTER ACT at Chateau Neuf, Oslo

A Star is Born in this "Feel Good" Crowd Pleaser

Review: SISTER ACT at Chateau Neuf, Oslo "Sister Act - The Musical", with nuns and all, has finally descended to Oslo. While the original creatives were only partly successful in adapting the 1992 movie to the stage, it is a feel-good crowd-pleaser worth seeing.

There are few things more "heavenly" than Anna-Lisa Kumoji in full flow, and that magnificent voice is put to great use as gangster's girlfriend and lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier. Stepping into Whoopi Goldberg's big screen signature role, it's a lot harder to buy the fact that she is a "failed wannabee", as she repeatedly belts the roof off the Chateau Neuf auditorium. In a tale about hiding out with nuns after you witness your mobster boyfriend kill someone, this is obviously not Shakespeare. Instead, this flashy, glossy show leaves you smiling, and often laughing out loud.

When the focus is on Deloris and her experiences in the convent this musical works like gangbusters, but many of the scenes involving the secondary characters feels like "fillers". I know this is a comedy, in which the mobsters are supposed to be stupid, but I would have wanted to see a little more menacing performances as well, so I could feel like Deloris was in more peril than what was shown. Numbers like "Lady in the Long Black Dress" and "When I Find My Baby" are entertaining and well performed, but they stall the plot. Act one develops slowly until the choir sends us to intermission a glorious high, and act two's curtain-riser carries that energy, but a lot of the show is just a waiting-game for the choir scenes.

The music skitters from Motown, to soul and funk, to disco and even a little jokey Barry White. While this is not Alan Menken at his finest you can't help but fall prey to the disco epics "Take Me to Heaven" and "Spread the Love Around", while songs like "Bless our Show" sounds as if Menken borrows a lot himself (Sounds very much like "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast). Glen Slater is no Howard Ashman, but his lyrics are fun if not overly clever. Teodor Jansson's translation is, in some cases, actually more clever than the original English lyrics.

Anna-Lisa Kumoji is just right for Deloris Van Cartier. Her voice is tremendous, and while maybe a little over-ignited during opening night, she gives a star turn in a role she will no doubt settle into it, and take it down a few notches, with a few more public performances under her belt. In addition to Kumoji, there are several more that needs mentioning. Mia Gundersen's portrayal as Mother Superior started off a little uneven, no doubt opening night jitters, but as the evening continued it felt like she gained more and more confidence, and her rendition of "Haven't Got a Prayer" (which was not in the original London production) her vocal power and stamina impressed me a great deal. I would have wanted to see her be more authoritarian and show more firmness towards Deloris. This will no doubt improve in time.

The nuns were are all wonderful, especially Aina Gundersen as the ever so positive Mary Patrick, Hilde Lyrån as the "not so positive" Mary Lazarus and Ingeborg Walther as Mary Roberts. They shared the chemistry needed for their scenes to work. It is especially nice to see Walther playing a character that starts off not really having a voice, and finding it during the course of the show. Thomas Stokke was a charming "Sweaty Eddie" and he gave the character dimension. His number "I Could Be That Guy" was cleverly staged with a few wardrobe surprises along the way.

While the scenic design and costumes used in this production is from the 2019 Stockholm production, everything else is new. Especially Simen Gloppen's choreography is super fun, innovate and fits the material well. Mattias Carlsson's direction is creative and he has managed to enhance the humor. The musical supervision by Hans Einar Apelland is wonderful as ever, and he managed to make the small seven piece band sounds like it is twice that size. The scene design and LED screens elevate this production, and it feels immersive. Every scene change happens in record speed. While I usually prefer more traditional sets I finally feel like Chateau Neuf, with this technology, can be a fitting venue for musical theater that requires more complex sets.

Sister Act is not deep or particularly nuanced, but when it is focused on the main story ultimately it's a hell of a lot of fun. Sometimes that is more than enough. To say that "Sister Act" lacks plot development is probably beside the point. To people who love this show (and, judging from audience reaction at opening night, that will be many) they will no doubt become true believers.

Review: SISTER ACT at Chateau Neuf, Oslo

  • Music: Alan Mencken
  • Lyrics: Glenn Slater
  • Book: Chery Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
  • Director: Mattias Carlsson
  • Choreographer: Simen Gloppen
  • Musical Supervision: Hans Einar Apelland
  • Starring: Anna-Lisa Kumoji, Mia Gundersen, Ingeborg Walther, Kevin Mbugua, Hilde Lyrån, Tom Sterri and Thomas Stokke
  • Set Design: Andreas Bini
  • Costumedesign: Camilla Thulin
  • Lightingdesign: Anders Busch
  • Sounddesign Erik Valderhaug
  • Make-up and Hair: Cårejånni Enderud
  • Produced by TARAN in collaboration with 2Entertain, Stockholm

From This Author - Christian Ranke

Christian Ranke is a writer, singer, actor and graphic designer. He has translated several musicals, such as EVITA (Rice/Lloyd Webber), THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (Dempsey/Rowe), PETER PAN – A M... (read more about this author)

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