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Sister Act as presented by Newry Musical Society



Adjudication Performance Date 8th March 2024

Newry Town Hall was lit up like a beacon on the evening of 8th March to see Sister Act. A society celebrating its 79th year. Both inside and out, this lovely Theatre was awash with laughter, noise, and an air of excitement I was greeted by an absolute gentleman and stalwart of this Society, Mr Donal Fegan, Chairman of the Society. Effusive in his welcome, it was a joy to be in his company. I am so grateful to you for your time and for making me feel so at home at the interval, taking me backstage to meet the cast after the show, and escorting me to my car. You are a charming man and an asset to this Society as Chairman. Thank you. There was however an issue with the view from my seat and unfortunately the person representing front of house did not cover themselves in glory in helping me. Thankfully a lady next to me heard the exchange and stepped in to help – THANK YOU!

Mr. David Cunningham was the Director of this show. Mr Cunningham had a vision for this show with the Production team. This was a strong cast and for the most part the show flowed well and looked super. Sets in the most were very good apart from a couple of scenes where a little more effort could have made a big difference. I did feel in some places, the pace of the show was slowed with the use of the black curtain across the stage in numerous scenes. Scenes with Mother Superior and Dolores were laboured particularly in scene changes and broke the continuation of the story in a few areas such as the Confession Box scene, the scene with Curtis and his crew, and “I haven’t got a prayer” (beautiful vocal) sung my Mother Superior. When the whole stage was utilized, the story flowed much more freely. The use of the black curtain to be pulled across and putting the actors in front of it for their dialogue and various scenes, I did feel it was used to excess. Once the black cloth was lifted, the whole set was complete with life, character, and colour, and the story continued. The cast was directed very well individually with the various characters well developed and strong in their interactions. Good casting and acting and the contrasts between them all worked exceptionally well.

The Choreographer was Ms Lisa Irvine. Super choreography here, Ms Irvine. The show's more significant choral numbers leaped off the stage with energy, joy, and professionalism. They were fast-moving, colourful, and energetic. “Take Me to Heaven” lifted the roof of the Town Hall. Vibrant, joyful, and very colourful, this was one of the show's most uplifting, energetic, and lively scenes. “Fabulous Baby” had confidence and flair, and Deloris owned the stage. The finale was joyful, celebratory, and magical. I wanted to stand up and clap myself. “Get the Vibe Make Some Noise” was very well executed and performed with precision and was a highlight of the show. You are a very talented Choreographer, Ms Irvine. Your talent shone through your dancers and ensemble and enhanced the show immensely. Indeed, Choreography was a highlight of the evening. Super.

Fiona Flynn was the Musical Director for this production as well as Conductor, and Chorus Mistress. In some parts, I felt that the orchestra was a little too loud for the performers on stage (the bar scene); however, for the most, the musical direction here was very good. A vast orchestra played beautifully throughout, and you, Ms Flynn, are a very assured Conductor, bringing the Orchestra and Company together.

Music in this show is demanding, with variations between gospel, pop music, and numbers such as “Here Within These Walls,” which are quieter, move reverend, and prayerlike. The principals were well rehearsed and very assured of their music. Well done Ms Flynn.

The Stage Manager was William McLennon. As mentioned, I felt that some of the scene changes could have been a little faster in some parts. I believe a Stage Manager in any production is an unsung hero behind the scenes, and organization, dedication, and expertise are vital in bringing a show to life. In this role, Mr. McLennon, you were most certainly all of these, creating a memorable experience for your audience and, most importantly, your cast. Having the privilege of going backstage after the show, I was very impressed by the work of your setup, meticulous organization and tidiness, and rapport with your crew and cast. This company, Mr. McLennon, is blessed to have you as their Stage Manager.

Set Construction was by Theatre Sets Ireland Limited. Sets in the more significant ensemble numbers were very effective, with beautiful gothic-like arches and attractive and practical stained-glass windows that were huge in appearance and effect and were magnificent visually for the audience. I did feel that some sets were a little too minimalistic at times, for example, the Mother Superior Office, which only had a desk and chair on stage, and the Confession Box scene, which just had the wall of a confession box with characters sitting on chairs on either side in the middle of the stage. I felt this could have been filled with more detail, such as more furniture and attention to detail.

Lighting was Shane Tumilty and the team's responsibility. It was excellent throughout. Beautiful colours, visions, striking reds, blues, and yellows create life, fun, drama, dance, pop, and religion. Lighting throughout was perfect, consistently professional, and very effective. Lighting lifted the show to another level, warmed the stage, created spaces and pops of colour throughout, and most definitely enhanced the show hugely. The spots were perfect. The ice blue lighting on the nuns as a choir was stunning, as was the gorgeous lighting for the finale and throughout every ensemble and choral number. Well done.

The sound was by McCusker’s Pro Audio. Balancing the sound between the live Orchestra and the performers on stage can be a challenge, and for the most part, the balance was perfect. However, the sound for the Chorus numbers was excellent. When the sound and the performances were ideally in sync with one another, the balance captured the beauty of this musical in every aspect and significantly contributed to its overall success.

The costumes were by Ciara Jennings, & Kathleen McAteer (Sew Me Costumes). Deloris’s bling dress for the Opening of the show set the bar high for the rest of the show as this was indeed an eye-catching, glamourous diva-like dress that gave us an idea of the character of Ms. Cartier and the type of character she was going to be from the first moment on stage. Nun costumes were very authentic and looked comfortable. The one costume that stood out for me glaringly above all the rest and in the most excellent way was Curtis’ red leather coat! Gorgeous! The props were good. Props to me always play a critical role in setting the scene or scenes; the jukebox in the Bar was very authentic, Curtis’ gun to mention, the fan on the desk, and the TV where Curtis discovers Deloris's whereabouts to mention but a few were perfect throughout.

Maille Connolly played the part of Deloris Van Cartier. From the moment this young lady stepped on stage, there was an energy and a dynamism, bringing out her sassiness and vulnerability to her character, which was endearing. An excellent vocal performance displays her journey from a lounge singer wanting only to be famous to a woman who finds herself and her true purpose in life later in the show after her stay in the Convent. Ms Connolly is a vibrant, fun character who acted well in this role. Lovely singing voice, great comedic timing, and great chemistry with the Company. It was a treat to watch this young lady in this role.

Veronica Barr played the part of the Mother Superior. What a beautiful voice full of emotion and empathy, and a part that Ms Barr took on board and made her own to great success. There was a grace about you, Ms Barr, that I very much liked, and gradually, as the show progressed and your character developed, I did warm to you in this role. Your rendition of “Haven’t Got A Prayer” was a highlight of this show for me. For me, it was the moment in the show that you showed beautifully and with such grace the internal struggles you faced with change and control. Your vocal here was exceptional and sung beautifully. You could hear a pin drop in the audience. You had a beautiful, stoic demeanour, with a softening beauty of your character in the latter part of the show.

Sister Mary Robert, played by Judith Quinn, was another lovely performance. In the beginning, this quiet, shy, withdrawn nun blossomed into a butterfly in the later parts of the show. Your vocal “The Life I Never Led” was a showstopper.

Maeve Bell played Sister Mary Patrick. What a delightful character you were, Ms Bell. Your enthusiasm was infectious, consistent optimism, cheerfulness, smiling, bubbliness, and vivacity. Your comedic timing was also perfect, and this role suited you perfectly.

The parts of Sr Mary Lazarus, Sr Mary Theresa, and Sr Mary Martin of Tours were played by Eithne Bell, Janice Gribben, and Helena Hughes, respectively. Charming parts, played very well by these young ladies, with your humour, camaraderie, and a little impishness on occasion blending beautifully and enhancing the performance and success of the show enormously. There were lovely vocals throughout, and there was indeed a lift when you arrived on stage on many occasions. You were influential in these roles, ladies, with each character bringing a vast amount of laughter and memorable presence on stage, consistently reminding your audience of the power of community.

Anna Smyth played the part of Michelle. It's a lovely role you played with just the right amount of sassiness and perfect comedic timing. You had a natural flair and ease as you moved around the stage. You delivered a confident performance and a lovely, warm tone to your voice. This part suited you very well, Ms Smyth. Lovely.

Shannon Copeland played Tina, the lovely Tina. Although not a prominent role, there is no such thing as a small part. You had a lovely enthusiasm about you, and you consistently brought a spark to the stage throughout.

Eoin Sands played the part of Eddie Southern. What a great Eddie you made, Mr Sands. You were awkward but with charm. You have a tone to your vocals and a stage presence that flows. You were very comfortable on stage. I particularly liked “I Could Be That Guy ” - simply brilliant; you came into your own in this number, and you shone. Well played Mr Sands in a role that suited you immensely.

Ruairi McAlinden played the part of Curtis. This part was made for you! Your appearance, booming threatening voice, and attitude towards Deloris and your boys brought enormous life to this show. I looked forward to each time you came on stage. That red coat was a find! Loved it! Vocally, you were powerful, had excellent diction, and made an impact visually in every scene. Your role brought critical tension and drama to the otherwise reverend show, and the contrast between your character and others worked so well. A significant part played with great aplomb and success. Well done, Mr McAlinden. Super part for you in every way.

The parts of Curtis’s henchman were Joey (played by Brian Reavey), Pablo (Shane O’Keeffe), and TJ (Conor Sands). And you were hilarious. You each had a very different character, which was a clever direction in this show. You could move superbly and were great dancers, but your demeanour when Curtis was around you produced hilarious scenes. “Lady in the Long Black Dress” highlighted your very different personalities beautifully, and yet, as individual as you were, you were also a team. And a huge success. I applaud you.

Paddy Heaney played Ernie. It's a lovely part. It was memorable and well-played. You were very jittery and nervous, yet you portrayed the seriousness of the situation to the audience. You set the tone for the more severe side of Sister Act very early on, and it worked very well. It was a memorable performance for all the right reasons. Great cameo part. You were wonderfully played.

Daryll Galloghly played Monsignor O’Hara’s part. Firstly – I LOVED those shades!!! What a significant part! You had excellent comedic timing, were hilarious, and freely moved around the stage as if you were born on it. You had a lovely rapport with the nuns and Mother Superior. Your character, for me, stood out. You have a vibrant voice, which suits this role and character. You brought the audience to roar with laughter (the sunglasses bop!), yet you were also authentic and believable as a Monsignor. And yet you handled this role in other parts sensitively and with lovely emotion. The gorgeous role was played beautifully.

The Chorus were excellent. From the awful-sounding ear-bursting wails of the “Choir” in the beginning with horrendous vocals and “harmonies” to turning into a world-class choir singing in front of the Pope. It was a vast turnaround, and you became a fantastic gospel Choir and a force to be reckoned with. What a beautiful sound. This show has many types of music, from gospel to soul to traditional hymns. “Raise Your Voice” was exceptional. It lifted the roof and will forever stay in my mind as a melodic sound that resonated off the Theatre walls. Your harmonies were gorgeous and so well-balanced. You had fantastic energy. Your various personalities, through your chorus numbers, allowed each of you to shine individually. You had fantastic energy. The sound you created was so lovely.

There is a beautiful sense of community in your Society. I felt that immediately as I walked into the Theatre. Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of this Sister Act The Musical production. Bringing such a bubbly, cheerful, and yet demanding show to the stage is no small feat, and it was evident to me that an enormous amount of time, effort, dedication, and passion went into this production. I believe your vibrant energy created fun and lively energy that kept your audience entertained from beginning to end. I thank you all for a beautiful evening and a lovely theatrical experience in the stunning building that is your home, Newry Town Hall. It was a pleasure.

Caroline Daly Jones

Sullivan Adjudicator 2023/24

Photographs by Jim McGuigan


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