Review: Sister Act is a big and bold show filled with incredible talent

Photo by Manuel Harlan
This is the show that could get you back into the habit of going to the theatre again
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Sister Act was the ideal film vehicle for Whoopi Goldberg, as it followed her Oscar winning turn in the smash hit Ghost and it highlighted what a great physical comedienne she is. 

The plot is so high concept that it has since had audiences coming back for more with a sequel, a musical stage version and a third movie instalment which is headed for Disney Plus soon.

This new stage production follows the same plot line as the movie, and we follow nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier (Sandra Marvin) on the run as she is a key murder witness. The crime involves her former gangster boyfriend, Curtis (Jeremy Secomb) and police decide they have the perfect hiding place.

Deloris is a sweary, brash and incredibly witty woman who does not believe in god, so where better to hide than a convent run by a strict Mother Superior (Jennifer Saunders) who believes in order and decorum. 

The comedy comes from seeing these opposites clash and you can predict that they will learn life lessons from each other.

Photo by Manuel Harlan

Deloris attends choir practice and soon realises that they need someone who can bring some pizazz, glitter, gold and soul to the proceedings and there is nun better for the job than this nightclub singer, who dreams of superstardom.

Along the way she meets a variety of nuns who warm to her modern attitude to life.

Sister Mary Patrick (The Greatest Showman’s Keala Settle) is essentially a girl who just wanna have fun, Sister Mary Lazarus (Lesley Joseph) discovers she can rap her way out of singing, and Sister Mary Robert (Lizzie Bea) finds her inner and outer voice. 

On the surface these ladies seem clean cut, but Deloris shows them they are twisted sisters.

The choir becomes incredibly successful, which means exposure for them, and the money keeps rolling in – which means a future for this convent but exposure for Deloris, who is meant to be in hiding.

Photo by Manuel Harlan

This hit musical first graced the London stage in 2009 and many were disappointed that the songs from the film were not featured. Instead you are treated to music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater and some of the songs do have the hooks required to reel you into this madcap story.

Raise Your Voice is a showstopper, as is Take Me to Heaven, and The Life I Never Led gives the wonderful Lizzie Bea the chance to shine, as a shy wallflower finding her way in the world. 

Some of the songs are forgettable but they are given life from the divine talent that is Sandra Marvin as Deloris Van Cartier.

This powerhouse singer and actor is clearly having a ball and she has the comic timing, full on personality and vocal chops to carry this larger than life character to the stage. 

Her infectious giggles and fantastic stage presence mean that even a lesser song is given something extra special.

The show sometimes could do with taking a breath as everything is given to you at full pelt and full on, it means that when Marvin does have time to catch her breath with a beautiful ballad such as the title song Sister Act, you can really appreciate the full on emotion that she can bring to a song. 

But just as you get the chance to sit back and take that in, on comes another fast and frenetic scene change.

Photo by Manuel Harlan

Jennifer Saunders as good as you would expect, as this is the ideal role for her. 

She can deliver a line in a way which sits with you and simmers in your mind, to be followed by full on laughter. Her facial expressions and body language highlight how wonderful she is at physical comedy. 

It really is a joy seeing this talented comedienne and actor on stage.

Keala Settle stole the show in The Greatest Showman and her part here is not as big as you would like but she has great comic timing and her voice shakes the rafters. 

Lesley Joseph is marvellous as the rapping sister who finds her inner Nicki Minaj and Clive Rowe delivers a scene stealing turn as steady Eddie, a cop with a heart of gold, who deep inside has soul but he’s not a soldier.  

Damian Buhagiar, Tom Hopcroft and Bradley Judge make a fine triple threat as wannabe smooth criminals during a Jersey Boys style number which drives the audience wild. 

Photo by Manuel Harlan

Jeremy Secomb and Graham MacDuff give far more than is on the page as Curtis and Monsignor O’Hara and both of them know how to make an audience laugh.

Lizzie Bea shone as Pat in Kinky Boots and as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. Here, she is heavenly as a Sister desperately seeking her calling and her versatile vocals take you to church.

The ensemble cast for this big and bold show change costumes at the speed of light and provide background comedy, superb moves and fill the stage with their incredible talent.

There are times when the show would benefit from the odd pause, to bring out the odd poignant moment, alongside the comedy. The song Within These Walls does do that but you need more moments like this, just to bring you back down to earth.

But with Sandra Marvin, Jennifer Saunders, Lizzie Bea, Keala Settle and Clive Rowe leading this talented cast, Sister Act is the show that could get you back into the habit of going to the theatre again.  

Sister Act is at the Palace Theatre until 9th July and tickets can be booked here.

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