Book: Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Director: Bill Buckhurst
Sister Act, the hugely popular film starring Whoopi Goldberg, was first put on a UK stage at the London Palladium in 2009. Since then it has enjoyed West End runs, UK tours and many amateur productions up and down the country. With some slight updates since previous productions, this Olivier Award nominated revival tells the story of club singer Deloris Van Cartier as she gets up in a sticky situation with her partner. She has to go into hiding in a place she would never have otherwise set foot in – a convent. The show boasts an original feel good, 70s inspired score by Alan Menken with lyrics by Glenn Slater.
This production is directed by Bill Buckhurst and he brings the show up to date for a modern audience. Some updates land better than others, but on the whole this is a great production ofSister Act giving audiences everything they know and love about the show. Alistair David’s choreography is energetic and it’s heartwarming to see performers of all ages dancing the same choreography together. This is a show about “friendship and connection” and the choreography really adds to this message.
Morgan Large’s set is fairly simple but allows for slick transitions between it’s many locations. A little more physical set in some of the scenes set outdoors wouldn’t have gone amiss though. The set has also been simplified slightly in some areas for the touring production compared to the Manchester and London versions of this same production. Tim Mitchell’s lighting, as well as Large’s costumes (particularly in the finale!) add a lot of colour to the production.
Lesley Joseph headlines this iteration of the cast, as assembled by Stuart Burt CDG, as Mother Superior. She gives a stoic performance, whilst demonstrating her great comic timing. She has a great stage presence and never hams the role up. She truly is a master of stagecraft.
Lizzie Bea, following her performances inHeathers the Musical andHairspray in the West End, takes on the role of Sister Mary Robert. She is a sensational vocalist and gives a powerful and heartfelt rendition of The Life I Never Led. Anne Smith is a joy to watch as Sister Mary Lazarus and cover Larissa Alexandrovnia has bundles of joy as Sister Mary Patrick. Tricia Deighton has strong comic timing as Sister Mary Theresa whilst Lori Haley Fox gives a brilliant, slightly ‘out there’ Sister Mary Martin of Tours whilst still finding moments to give the character real heart.
Jeremy Secomb is a brilliant villain as Curtis Jackson. His vocals are outstanding and he is perfectly intimidating. Bradley Judge is OTT, getting plenty of laughs, as TJ and his vocals in Lady in the Long Black Dress are a delight to listen to. Damian Buhagiar equally gets plenty of laughs as the Spanish speaking Pablo, hitting notes powerfully that no man should be able to hit. In the absence of Tom Hopcroft, Castell Parker took on the role of Joey and did a great job. His vocals were strong, he had a great stage presence and Castell, Buhagiar and Judge worked together brilliantly as a comedic trio.
Legendary actor Clive Rowe, who was nominated for an Olivier Award in this role, gives a very strong performance as Eddie Souther. His vocals are gorgeous with I Could Be That Guy being great fun. At this performance, in the absence of Sandra Marvin, Gabrielle Davina Smith took on the role of Deloris. Despite the significant gap between Smith and Rowe, their chemistry was still believable and the audience could root for their relationship. In only her second performance in the role, Smith leads the cast as Deloris tremendously. She has great comic timing, a fantastic rapport with all of her other cast mates (particularly Chloe Hopcroft and Emma Ralston covering the role of Tina and Michelle – they add buckets of energy to the opening of the show!) and is a powerhouse vocalist. She portrays Deloris’ journey very well, culminating in a stunning and heartfelt rendition of the title song Sister Act. Gabrielle Davina Smith is certainly one to watch and no doubt has many exciting roles in her future.
This production ofSister Actis feel good, fabulous fun with a superb cast and, following its Olivier nominations, has already announced plans to go back into the West End next Spring. Be sure to see this colourful production at a venue near you but be quick, as tickets are selling very quickly.
Runs until 15th April 2023, before continuing on tour.