Tuesday, 21st March 2023 at Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House
Having enjoyed great success opening in Manchester before a much-anticipated stint in London, Sister Act is back with gusto and touring the UK. I remember loving the London Palladium production in 2009 so I was thrilled to know this show was set for the stage again – and my memory served me well, because this show does indeed do a very good job of taking the key elements of the hit 1992 movie and wrapping a bunch of new additions and tweaks around it for our theatregoing pleasure.
In case you’re new to Sister Mary Clarence’s tale: dive singer Deloris Van Cartier (Sandra Marvin) witnesses her mobster boyfriend (Jeremy Secomb) and his minions (Damian Buhagiar, Tom Hopcroft and Bradley Judge) commit a big-time crime and has to go into hiding while she awaits his trial. Cue the bright idea to hide the most extravagantly conspicuous of souls in a place of perfect peace: a convent run under the watchful eye of Mother Superior (Lori Haley Fox). What could possibly go wrong, eh?
Sandra Marvin is a wonderful lead: vibrant, funny, charismatic and calamitous all at once, she’s great fun to watch even before she showcases her powerful voice. And boy is it powerful. But also very tender, as is captured in her beautiful rendition of “Sister Act”. Clive Rowe is also great with the comedy but snags some sympathy too as the overlooked admirer Eddie Souther, before really coming into his own for his showstopper number: “I Could Be That Guy”. Lizzie Bea’s Sister Mary Robert is perfectly sensitive and conflicted, giving her every ounce of inspiration needed to deliver “The Life I Never Led” with gorgeous conviction (and very impressive lung power!).
As is often the case with such a large scale, very well put together musical like this, the ensemble are fabulous. They raise heavenly music, a bit of a ruckus as required and also showcase all that is great about Morgan Large’s sparkling costume designs and Alistair David’s playful choreography. Stand-outs amongst the habits and cloisters include Anne Smith’s gravelly Sister Mary Lazarus (Mary Wickes would be proud, I’m sure), Bradley Judge’s numbskull act as TJ and Catherine Millsom’s buoyant Sister Mary Patrick.
Cheri and Bill Steinkellner’s book loves to highlight the incongruity of a woman like Deloris in a convent and there are some fab one-liners to be cherished here. It has to be stressed though that while the basic premise and core characters are very much based on the hit Whoopi Goldberg movie, this is a very different take and comes complete with some real gems from Alan Menken (music) and Glenn Slater (lyrics). So there’s no Motown this time, it’s the rousing duo of “Take Me to Heaven” and “Raise Your Voice”, the vibrant “Fabulous, Baby!” and the beautifully sentimental title song, “Sister Act”. It’s a road trip-worthy collection, put it that way.
All in all? Sister Act is a lot of fun. It has a great score, a fab cast and a lively, thoroughly entertaining story to tell – as nights at the theatre go, this is a very good shout!
Sister Act is at Leeds Grand Theatre until April 1st 2023 – you can find tickets here. The show then continues its tour until April 2024 – you can find more information and tickets here.
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