After 2 years in the making and covid delays aplenty the revival of Sister Act has finally hit the Hammersmith Apollo. The show is packed with star names from Beverly Knight as Deloris, Jennifer Saunders as Mother Superior, Lesley Joseph as the rapping Sister Mary Lazarus, Keala Seattle as Sister Mary Patrick and Lizzie Bea as Sister Mary Roberts. These were all however much more than just star names and combined with some huge numbers the show was a thrilling and fun night out.
Sister Act is based on the 1992 movie of the same name which tells of Deloris Van Cartier who witnesses her gangster boyfriend murder a police informant. She soon realises that the same fate may be waiting for her so runs to the police for protection. Deloris is put into a convant for her own protection and whilst at first she struggles to fit in, when she starts helping the choir it appears she has found her calling.
The shows music is by Alan Menken with lyrics by Glenn Slater and this is where the show really begins to shine. You have some wonderful disco numbers such as ‘Take Me To Heaven’ and ‘Fabulous Baby’ along with songs packed full of character such as ‘Raise Your Voice,’ through to the more traditional ballads like ‘Sister Act’ and ‘The Life I’ Never Led.’ These masterful songs paired with the array of talent on stage ensured that the sequinned habits weren’t the only things on stage that shone.
When it comes to singing, the next thought in this show is the powerhouse that is Beverly Knight as Deloris. At the beginning of the show Deloris bemoans that she has not yet been discovered yet and with Knight’s voice I found this hard to comprehend. She really can do it all vocally, from the more soulful numbers to the big disco moments although at one point she gets a round of applause for an impeccable acapella riff. Knight however is not just a vocalist and she brings warmth and humour to the role. Vocally she is not the only powerhouse on stage, Lizzie Bea as the loveable young postulant shows why she is hot property on the West End at the moment and not only delivers vocally but presents a character that you can’t help but fall in love with . Keala Seattle is another huge vocalist on stage and whilst her talents felt a bit under used, every line that she delivers is done so flawlessly. Gracing the Apollo stage we also have comedy queens such as Jennifer Saunders and Lesley Joseph. Saunders as Mother Superior had the ability to make the audience laugh with saying very little and Lesley Joseph’s rap during ‘Raise Your Voice’ was one of my favorite moments of the show.
In terms of the book there are sub plots on stage that don’t always work. Deloris’ relationship with Eddie, played by Clive Rowe is one of them. At the end Deloris declares that she has got Eddie however there had been little focus on their relationship that I struggled to reconcile her statement with what I had just watched. Equally there were moments that I questioned, such as Curtis jumping from Deloris seeing to the murder to declaring that he needed to kill her. There were also times where the pace lacked, numbers could have been shorter or in some cases cut altogether with the show running to nearly 3 hours, with realistically not that much plot or character development other than Deloris within it. However at the heart of it the development of Deloris is well delivered and there is a heart warming story about friendship and sisterhood which is the most important takeaway from this show and that message was clear.
The set design by Morgan Large was impressive, particularly so when inside the convent. This was combined with a clever lighting design by Tim Mitchell and highlights of this saw a multi coloured stained glass window as a focal point for the finalie. The costume design is also joyful, as the nuns fame grows so does the color on the habits until we reach the curtain call which sees the stage awash with rainbow colored habits, a real sight to behold.
Sister Act is blessed with an insanely talented cast and some fabulous (baby) numbers, it is thanks to this combination that the show gets away with a lot more than some of its counter parts might. However if you are looking for a night out to marvel at some vocal gymnastics, be dazzled by sequins and laugh with some comedy gold talent then Sister Act is the perfect show choice.
Sister Act is running until the 28th August. You can find out more and book tickets here.
If you like this review you might also like my review of Six, Cabaret and The Drifters Girl.