Review: Sister Act at Innerleithen – not to be missed!

The cast of Innerleithen and District Amateur Operatic Society's production of Sister Act. Photos: Graham Riddell.
The cast of Innerleithen and District Amateur Operatic Society's production of Sister Act. Photos: Graham Riddell.

Attending a Roman Catholic primary school in my formative years has given me a sense of right and wrong ... and a lifetime phobia of nuns.

And, due to the fact that I am, like any sane person, also scared of Whoopi Goldberg, it was with some trepidation that I agreed to review Sister Act, being performed all this week by the wonderful Innerleithen and District Amateur Operatic Society.

Deloris Van Cartier (Nicola Watt) and Officer Eddie Souther (Douglas Russell).

Deloris Van Cartier (Nicola Watt) and Officer Eddie Souther (Douglas Russell).

But any fears I may have had were quickly put to bed, as the company has put together a barnstorming show, with superb singalong numbers and a bundle of laughs.

While there are dark corners in the show, produced by Brian McGlasson, put together brilliantly by musical director Jenny Campbell and choreographer Anne Anderson, it ultimately leaves you uplifted and joyful.

Heading up the cast is the society’s president Nicola Watt, who plays Deloris Van Cartier with unbounded energy, backed up with a strong singing voice.

She portrays Deloris with just the right amount of sass, and when she is conducting the choir with her back to the audience, she has perfected the inimitable Whoopi’s bum dance.

Sister Mary Patrick (Claire Bell), Sister Mary Lazarus (Karen Wilson) and Sister Mary Robert (Lizzie Bell).

Sister Mary Patrick (Claire Bell), Sister Mary Lazarus (Karen Wilson) and Sister Mary Robert (Lizzie Bell).

However good Nicola is, she is backed up superbly by an incredibly talented cast.

David Paterson resurrects his role in the Hawick production on four years ago, as the brooding panto villain Curtis, the mob boss who Deloris is dating at the start of the show.

He gives the impression of being hewn from granite for the sole purpose of playing this role.

He keeps his simmering hatred for everyone reined in until it blossoms in wondrous evil in the song “When I Find My Baby”.

Joey (Roger Brydon), Curtis (David Paterson), Pablo (Colin Tweedie) and TJ (Stewart Wilson), collectively known as the bad guys.

Joey (Roger Brydon), Curtis (David Paterson), Pablo (Colin Tweedie) and TJ (Stewart Wilson), collectively known as the bad guys.

When Deloris sees Curtis kill one of his henchmen for ratting on him to the cops, she is put in a witness protection programme which involves her being placed in a convent, much to the chagrin of the Mother Superior, played superbly by Pam Graham.

She steals the show in the songs “Here Within These Walls” and “I Haven’t Got A Prayer”, with a voice soaked in honey.

She reluctantly takes Deloris in and tries to make the best out of a bad situation by giving her the task of sorting out the church’s terrible choir of nuns.

Making friends with Sisters Mary Robert, Mary Patrick and Mary Lazarus, she of course does just that. through the stomping song “Raise Your Voice”.

The dancers

The dancers

The black and white-clad trio provide the light-hearted moments. Mary Robert (Lizzie Bell) is the shy, young postulant nun with the surprisingly strong singing voice – a role Lizzie plays to a T.

Her performance of “The Life I Never Led” is outstanding, and it’s no surprise when she gets the biggest cheer of the night by absolutely nailing the big ending.

Karen Wilson must have gargled drawing pins to perfect the voice of Sister Mary Lazarus, but her portrayal of the dour old-timer is fantastic, especially her floss moves in “It’s Good To Be A Nun”.

And Claire Bell is hilarious as the tremendously goofy Sister Mary Patrick.

However, the funniest moment is Curtis’ henchmen singing about how they would attract a nun in the delightfully creepy “Lady In The Long Black Dress”.

Douglas Russell plays his part of Officer Eddie Souther, the cop who had fancied Deloris since schooldays but was just too shy to say, perfectly.

The Nuns say a prayer ahead of their big mass.

The Nuns say a prayer ahead of their big mass.

His big moment, “I Could Be That Guy” is sung with gusto, and the audience definitely enjoyed watching him grow in confidence throughout.

Much in the style of Father Ted, Jamie McCubbin holds the threads together in the straight role of Monsignor O’Hara. And a whole host of chorus members and dancers combine to make the show the sheer spectacle it is.

The finale, Spread The Love Around, is such a feelgood ending, you will leave with a smile and, hopefully, a diminished fear of nuns.

The not-to-be-missed show runs at Innerleithen Memorial Hall nightly at 7.30pm until Saturday, with a matinee performance on Saturday at 2.15pm.

Tickets, £12, can be bought by calling 0845 224 1908, or go online to www.idaos.org.uk.

Tickets are also available at the Thrift Shop, High Street, Innerleithen.

Mother Superior (Pam Graham) and Monsignor O'Hara (Jamie McCubbin)

Mother Superior (Pam Graham) and Monsignor O'Hara (Jamie McCubbin)