CentralDramaMusicalReview

Sister Act – Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

Reviewer: James Garrington

Book: Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner

Music: Alan Menken

Lyrics: Glenn Slater

Director: Bill Buckhurst

Sister Act is one of those shows that will be almost guaranteed to send an audience home happy and judging from the reaction on Press Night it certainly succeeded in that aim.

The plot may be paper-thin but even so there’s a deeper message lurking in this feel-good show – that fame and fortune mean nothing, and real happiness is to be found in companionship and community. Sister Act is a show that’s always been funny but here director Bill Buckhurst has managed to find some extra bits of comedy to add to the mix. There are some script changes too, which remove some of the potentially more problematic lines but sometimes manage to lose some of the humour as a result, with dialogue occasionally feeling a bit stilted or unnatural – but that’s an issue for those who know the show very well; the majority of the audience will be unaware that it’s even been done.

Wannabe nightclub singer Deloris van Cartier witnesses a murder committed by her married gangster lover and is sent to hide in a convent until the case comes to court – which to her dismay she finds is a year away. There she is told to join the choir – a group whose singing ability is questionable. “There are no words”, as the Mother Superior says. Despite the challenges she transforms the serious and tuneless bunch into a joyous, colourful gospel choir finding in the process her own path to happiness – but at the same time attracting the attention of the very people she’s trying to avoid.

Despite some early concerns about the audibility of some of her dialogue, Sandra Marvin is an excellent choice for the role of Deloris, transforming effortlessly from the sassy and ambitious nightclub singer to finding the joys of sisterhood. Her vocals are good, with some excellent delivery of different styles from disco through soul to gospel, and she shows that she also has superb comic timing. There’s a degree of tenderness too, as the relationship between her and the other sisters and Mother Superior develops through the show.

Lesley Joseph is an inspired choice as Mother Superior. It’s a role that is sometimes played fairly straight but Joseph milks it for every laugh she can get, providing what could possibly be the funniest performance of the night – and showing that she can still sing and move with the rest, too. Alfie Parker is also a delight as Eddie Souther, the policeman who‘s had a crush on Deloris since they were at school together with his I Could Be That Guy being one of the memorable performances of the night – even if things didn’t go entirely to plan on press night, but that is one of the joys of live theatre.

Lizzie Bea gives us a lovely Mary Robert, the mouse-like postulant who finds her voice with Deloris, and Catherine Millsom a wonderfully exuberant Mary Patrick. Graham MacDuff makes more of the role of Monsignor O’Hara than you often see, and Mark Goldthorp as Curtis delights with his Find My Baby – though you never really feel any sense of danger around Curtis and his gangsters.

The choreography by Alistair David is slick, the set by Morgan Large lets the show flow seamlessly and the production is bright and joyful – and the audience on press night lapped up every minute of it. It’s a show that will have you clapping along to the finale, and send you out of the theatre singing the songs to yourself. If you’re a fan of feel-good theatre, great music with witty lyrics and clever comedy, you’ll have a ball.

Runs until 10 June 2023 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Irreverent, tender - and very, very funny

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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