It’s incredible to realise that it’s 30 years since a film hit the big screens all about singing nuns and gangsters – with its brilliant casting, and a soundtrack that stayed in the top 200 for 54 weeks, it’s still enjoyed today. It’s no surprise therefore, that the stage revival of Sister Act has been well received, with audiences in raptures for the new cast and Alan Menken’s original score.
The Manchester Palace boasts Sandra Marvin in the lead as Deloris Von Cartier, whose phenomenal vocal talent shines beyond the sequins and disco lights. In a show that is more about feel-good and big beats than depths of emotion, you nevertheless feel Marvin take Deloris on a journey to true redemption that’s authentic and touching.
The show builds in confidence – much like the nuns themselves – with the first scenes perhaps rushed to speed through the backstory to the main event, with physical comedy overplayed for just a touch too long.
But with the pre-interval hit Raise Your Voice, it really ramped up the energy, and began to showcase the harmonies and enthusiasm that we know and love from the story. Keala Settle plays Sister Mary Patrick with unwavering positivity, and brings a smile to your face whenever she steps on stage. Kudos must absolutely go to Lesley Joseph, whose Sister Mary Lazarus is as cheeky as you could hope for, well belying Joseph’s years.
In a production such as this, it’s so often the characters who contrast the bubbling chorus that provide the best moments of comedy and engagement. Jennifer Saunders is the epitome of Mother Superior, her face never wavering from disdain, regular quips made with perfect timing deserving of the outbursts from the audience.
An unexpected treat was the Jersey Boy-esque When I find My Baby, led by Jeremy Secomb (the gangster Curtis Jackson) and supported by Bradley Judge, Tom Hopcroft, and Damian Buhagiar (playing TJ, Joey, and Pablo respectively), who also shared a brilliant rendition of Lady in the Long Black Dress.
When a show has as much glitz as this one’s finale, and a message of acceptance to boot, you can’t help but feel a little blessed to have borne witness!
Review written for Matinee Radio