Music: Alan Menkin
Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Book: Cheri Steinkellner
Director: Bill Buckhurst
Based on Whoopi Goldberg’s 1992 classic movie Sister Act has been, after many pandemic-related delays, adapted into a new big-budget stage musical. The show follows the same plot as the movie; telling the story of Deloris Van-Cartier (Sandra Marvin), a lounge singer who witnesses her gangster boyfriend shooting a man, and so goes into witness protection in a Catholic convent, bringing her love of singing to the sisters.
The show’s design is immediately captivating, combining the ornate gothic features of a Catholic convent with the bright lights and pizzazz of the stage. The main set, present and imposing throughout the show, is comprised of receding archways set with neon lights to reinforce throughout the performance the juxtaposition and marrying together of Deloris’ two worlds. This concept of the set reflecting the protagonist appears again and again as the initially drab surroundings gradually take on more vibrancy through to the glittering rainbow that is Raise Your Voice.
The strength of this show lies in the strength of its ensemble cast. The tentative nuns gradually developing to find their own voices is reflected with joy and humour as they each in turn take to centre stage with solos aplenty. Lori Haley Fox’s Mother Superior develops from the hard and unwavering leader of the convent to a sequin-covered dance machine by the end of the show, with I Haven’t Got a Prayer creating a turning point for the audience to grow to love the character. Lizzie Bea as Sister Mary Robert in particular steals the show with The Life I Never Led, revealing a formidable voice no one saw coming. Leading the group, as Deloris, is Sandra Marvin who makes the role her own where there was a danger of appearing as a Whoopi parody. She portrays the character’s vulnerabilities right alongside her confidence and charisma while driving the plot with her powerhouse vocals and seamless comedic timing.
Giving extra time, expanded beyond the original movie, to showcase this cast comes at a price, however. Additional subplots are added which seem to go nowhere, particularly with several scenes given over to Eddie’s longing for Delores, and antagonist Curtis taking centre stage to rhyme about murdering his mistress, which combines to slow the pace of the show and detract from the energy of the performance at times.
Overall, the plot is perhaps somewhat lacking and some of the comedy leans so far into slapstick that the show feels that it might have been written in the 70s instead of just set then. Somehow, though, it doesn’t matter the show is still uplifting and utterly joyful; an uncomplicated delight to brighten complicated times that leaves the entire audience smiling.
Runs Until 14 Jan 2023