Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Music: Alan Menken
Book: Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Additional book: Douglas Carter Beane
Director: Bill Buckhurst
Snap, crackle, pop! Back in Cardiff after a sell out in Wales capital city just over a year and a half ago, Sister Act still cuts the mustard. The mix of Motown, soul and disco music is at the core of this musical, based on the book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner and the 1992 smash hit film of the name starring Whoopi Goldberg, plus Netflix et al. This touring production, set in and reflecting the era of the mid nineteen seventies, has it all – great musical numbers, plus drama and comedic crime, aided by glitzy costumes. A clever rework of the original script encompasses a scattering of hilarious bon mots.
The latter, spoken by the diminutive Lesley Joseph dwarfed on stage by most if not all of the cast, is what gives this production a new lease of life. Delivered by Joseph with panache, in the style of Downton Abbey’s iconic Dowager Countess, Joseph’s interpretation of Mother Superior of the Abbey where nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier (Landi Oshinowo) takes refuge from the criminal mob out to get her, is a different take on the role. Unexpectedly perhaps, Joseph has a true and clear singing voice giving a sympathetic wistfulness to her solo I haven’t got a Clue in the second half. Joseph, in her seventies, brings an energy and wit to the role which succeed in making it hers despite some prestigious predecessors.
No small task – for it is Oshinowo, as Deloris, the poverty-stricken nightclub singer who becomes a target for a criminal mob out to kill her, who turns the cloistered lifestyle of the sisters of the convent on its heels, who is the pivotal figure. On stage for almost every scene, Oshinowo copes magnificently. With a great singing voice, she belts out solo songs such as Take me to Heaven in act one, and leads in feet tapping numbers such as Fabulous Baby (Act I, reprised in Act 2.)
Among the nuns are some outstanding individual cameo roles, led by the gifted Lizzie Bea who leaped to stardom in Hairspray! Another bright star in the firmament is the ever-popular Alfie Parker as Eddie, the policeman charged with the impossible role of keeping the irrepressible Deloris safe. As for the naughty boys of the crime mob- a chuckle for a clutch of fun roles and spot-on performances. Great choreography by Alistair David performed by a nifty team of dancers in true to the era costumes designed by Morgan Large – who is also responsible for the set. Atmospheric lighting by Tim Mitchell aids and abets.
Only caveat is that there is an occasional tendency now and again by some of the vocal ensemble to drop the level of sound, making it difficult to hear all the words. Otherwise – the standing ovation at the end of Tuesday night’s show was well deserved. Bravo!
Runs until Saturday November 18 and continues touring