Saturday, 7 March 1998

Sisterella, March 7, 1998

Sisterella, book, lyrics, music by Larry Hart
 At the Regent Theatre from March 1998
Review by Kate Herbret around 5 March 1998

Imagine Cinderella as the unassuming daughter of a recently deceased billionaire. Her secretly wicked stepmother has at least two previous rich, dead husbands, a couple of lovers and two appalling daughters.

When poor Cinders inherits the fortune, step-mummy has her certified. It's hard to get to the ball to marry the prince when you're locked up and dosed up on lithium, so her fairy godfather invests her with 'attitude' or "Fump'. (Yes, fump?)

Such is the narrative of American, Larry Hart's funky new musical, Sisterella. Hart is responsible for virtually everything: book, lyrics, music, direction and even an onstage role that showcases a fine voice.

Hart has written some great tunes - thirty-two in fact, ranging from gospel to romantic ballads and raunchy chorus numbers with lots of bump and grind.

Sisterella is built around its tunes, which are more successful than the rather banal lyrics, thin story and cheap, adolescent jokes. It could benefit from cutting five or ten extraneous, often sentimental numbers that slow down the pace.

The audience rose to its feet and clapped like seals at the final curtain in spite of a half hour delay. The show is a hoot because of its funky music, great voices, energetic ensemble, well-drilled choreography (Raymond G. del Barrio), monumental design (Michael Scott-Mitchell), garish costumes (Cordula Albrecht) and spectacular lighting (Trudy Dalgliesh).

The onstage star of the show is New Zealander, Tina Cross, playing step-mum, Dahlia. She has a rich voice, wicked presence, the best songs and her villain is much more interesting than Ella who bleats throughout.

The engaging and talented Della Miles as Ella is never given a chance to belt out a song. Wanda Houston and Billie Stapleton as the sisters give bold, gutsy performances as the foodie who wants be a Country and Western singer, and the tacky rough-neck.

Sisterella is shamelessly riddled with stage musical references and High Camp. It looked as if we'd stumbled into Mardi Gras with guest spots from the Village People and a drag queen fairy godfather (Keith Wright). All the women are tarts, harradins or victims

If you can tolerate some Amercian schmaltz and you check your brain and your politics at the door, you'll have a good time at Sisterella.


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