An Interview with Craig Revel Horwood

 Sister Act The Musical will be hitting the Edinburgh Playhouse next week

The Mumble caught up with director & choreographer Craig Revel Horwood

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With a CV boasting creative credits of some sort in just about every popular show going and a high-profile place on one of UK TV’s biggest shows, you would think Craig Revel Horwood had ticked off everything on his career wish-list. But there is one show that had evaded his creative input until now and that is Sister Act. As the show prepares to visit Edinburgh, he tells John Bultitude why working on the show is his dream come true, unlocking Alexandra Burke’s comedy potential and who his dream Strictly contestants would be.

All good things come to those who wait. That is very much the motto of Craig Revel Horwood when it comes to his ambition to be part of the Sister Act phenomenon. The feel-good story of Deloris Van Cartier’s journey has delighted millions. First portrayed on the big screen by Whoopi Goldberg, Deloris is the sassy soul singer who witnesses a shooting and ends up in protective custody in a convent where she (and her ‘Sisters’ in every sense of the word) learn some life lessons.

Sister Act was one of the most financially successful films of the Nineties worldwide before becoming a smash-hit stage show which has enchanted audiences across the globe. The love for the show is shared by Craig and it is why it appealed to him so much. He was initially asked to do some work on the West End production but that did not work out for him. When plans for the current tour came up, he jumped at it. Craig recalled: “I was absolutely delighted because it gives me the chance to fulfil a nine-year ambition. The story is really, really good. That is the number one thing for me. The songs are great, the music is great, the lyrics are great and the plot has this wonderful, wonderful heart which is what I love about it.”

Heading the cast is Alexandra Burke, the incredibly successful singer who shot to fame on The X Factor becoming a top recording star. This is paralleled by incredible stage success following a recently critically acclaimed tour in The Bodyguard. Her vocal prowess speaks for itself but Craig, as director and choreographer of this production, has succeeded in releasing another of her talents. He explained: “Alexandra is a natural comedian and people have never seen that side of her. It is really wonderful for her to get stuck into some comedy and it really suits her down to the ground”.

“Of course, this show has fantastic vocals as you can imagine. It is so lovely that Alexandra was available and wanted to do this show. She is also a brilliant mover and dancer and fits into the company brilliantly well. We are doing it as an ensemble piece. Everyone plays different characters. They are actors/musicians so they sing, they act, they dance but they also provide the music because they play instruments. I do have to say though that it is quite an alarming sight watching a nun with a saxophone,” chuckled Craig.

Also in the show is the much-loved and hugely experienced stage star Rosemary Ashe whose West End credits include hits like The Phantom Of The Opera, Les Misérables, Oliver!, The Witches of Eastwick and Mary Poppins.

A high-energy show like this also requires some pin-sharp choreography which is also Craig’s forte although it is not without his challenges. As he says: “The problem is that a lot of the cast are in habits. As well as choreography, you need to do lots of arm-ography too and there is a lot that nuns cannot do so you have to be quite inventive with it all which I am really enjoying.”

This mix of emotions within Sister Act also makes it a real joy for Craig with the great music and the show’s rich seam of storytelling running through it. He said: “We are getting into the world of gospel music which is uplifting and will give you a big smile on your face. The show does have a dark side too and it is quite intense in places with gun warfare, murder, and of course love. It is a really good story and it covers every human emotion.”

So top of Craig’s priority list is getting every single aspect of this show exactly right and ensuring audiences also leave each performance with a big grin. But with this and no doubt other stage projects on the go as well as his TV commitments, how on earth does he fit everything in? Craig laughed: “I have a good PA and my diary is very well organised. I am genuinely booked up three years in advance so I generally fit in everything around all of that. I love it. I love directing and choreography. It is my passion and joy. That is what I will do until the day I die. It is something I can still do while I still have a brain and the assistance of my body.”

And he seems to have his working year sorted out with stage commitments from the spring, Strictly Come Dancing starting in the autumn and then the show’s live tour early in the New Year before a very important 6-week holiday to recharge the batteries and catch up with family and friends in Australia before the whole showbiz cycle begins again. Craig also really enjoys working with the general public teaching the rudiments of dance on a special P & O Cruise before they compete with each other for a title which lets him share his talent and expertise as well as enjoying some time at sea.

And so to Strictly, the Saturday small-screen juggernaut that gets the nation talking and lets us judge whether the celebrity contestants are dynamic divas and dashing devils of the dancefloor, or more of a dad-dancer. While many have competed for the highly-sought-after Glitterball, there are still a few big names that Craig would like to see in action. He said: “I would love to see Simon Cowell on there as it would make great television. Sharon Osbourne would be great too as she is so mouthy. The Royals would be good. Prince Harry? Yes please.”

But what about if they answer back? Everyone knows Simon does not stand on ceremony and gives as good as he gets, and Prince Harry could have Craig sent to the Tower. With a belly-laugh, he retorts: “I like feisty. Why not?” And there lies the bond between the hit show Sister Act and the creative force of Craig Revel Horwood. They are both outwardly a mix of emotions blending humour and drama but boasting an inner kind and strong heart which everyone envies and appreciates.

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