Sister Act The Musical
A divine musical comedy with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, based on the Touchstone Pictures motion picture Sister Act
Deloris Van Cartier – Patina Miller
Mother Superior – Sheila Hancock
Monsignor Howard – Ian Lavender
Shank – Chris Jarman
Eddie – Ako Mitchell
Sister Mary Robert – Katie Rowley Jones
Bones – Nicolas Colicos
Dinero – Ivan De Freitas
TJ – Thomas Goodridge
Sister Mary Patrick – Claire Greenway
Sister Mary Lazarus – Julia Sutton
Nicholas Skilbeck – Music Director
Peter Schneider – Director
Michael Reno – Producer for Sis Acts LLC
Joop Van Den Ende, Bill Taylor, Adam Spiegel – Producers
Anthony Van Laast – Choreographer
Klara Ziegkerova – Set Designer
Lez Brotherston – Costume Designer
Natasha Katz – Lighting Designer
Mick Potter – Sound Designer
Doug Besterman – Orchestrations
Mark Hummel – Dance Music Arranger
Reviewed by: Michael Darvell
Reviewed: 3 June, 2009
Venue: London Palladium
Remember Sister Wendy Beckett? For a time she was the most celebrated holy person on television and an unbeatable art expert, too. She had goodness written all over her. However, nuns are de rigueur when it comes to humour, for the funnier they are, the better they are, especially if they are naughty nuns. One of the most successful musicals is about one such. In The Sound of Music Maria’s fellow sisters sing ‘What are we going to do about Maria?’. The same could be asked about Deloris Van Cartier, the disco-dancing heroine of “Sister Act” who, as in “Nuns on the Run”, takes the cloth to escape the clutches of her murderous boyfriend. While she is confined to the convent Deloris manages to turn the untalented choir of nuns into an all-singing, all-dancing ensemble and soon their church is packed, thereby keeping it from closure.
The setting has been changed from the 1990s back to Philadelphia circa 1978, with a requisite change in music styles. The film (with Whoopi Goldberg) used famous pop-songs for the nuns’ choruses, but in the stage-show it has a new, albeit pastiche, score by Alan Menken, famous for “Little Shop of Horrors”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Little Mermaid” and other Disney films. The music is nothing too special and much of it is of a holy rolling, hot gospelling, evangelising strain. Glenn Slater’s lyrics are fairly serviceable and ‘How I got the Calling’ has some amusing lines.
The script is perfunctory and takes ages to get going from setting up the initial killing, followed by Deloris’s flight from the scene of the crime and her eventual holing up in a convent under a witness protection scheme. It is once there the fun starts with an array of stereotypical nuns – a fat one, a shy one and an old-timer who can’t wait to jive and get to the booze. Deloris’s boyfriend, Shank, is as dim as they come and his henchmen, Bones, TJ and Dinero, are from the same mould. Even Sweaty Eddie, Deloris’s old school chum who is now a policeman, manages to foil the idiot-gangster-quartet, even though he is afraid of using his gun and keeps it locked in a drawer.
The plot is mostly irrelevant. It is the music that counts. Throughout most of the tomfoolery, or nunsense, only two of the cast manage to keep their dignity intact, Sheila Hancock as the Mother Superior and Ian Lavender as the Monsignor. The cast is hard-working. Patina Miller sings and dances up a storm. As Eddie, Ako Mitchell displays a natural talent for comedy while Claire Greenway, as the buxom Sister Mary Patrick, is a good foil for the others. Julia Sutton as the ageing Sister Mary Lazarus, takes all her comic moments and runs with them to brilliant effect. The scenes with the band of hoods are too farcical to be comfortable, although individually Nicolas Colicos as Bones, Thomas Goodridge as TJ and Ivan De Freitas as Dinero exhibit good comic timing. Chris Jarman as Shank is an all-purpose bad boy. The ensemble of nuns are, by the end of the show, singing like angels but behaving like little devils.
Anthony Van Laast keeps everybody on the move, producing some infectious dance routines. Peter Schneider’s direction is slick. Klara Zieglerova’s settings, moving between convent, nightclub and police station, are well-produced as they part and come together well and at top speed. Lez Brotherston’s costumes go from one extreme to the other. As the church becomes ever more successful the schmutter improves by leaps and bounds so that by the end the nuns are dressed in glamorous glitzy gowns, and even Mother Superior gets to add a little bling to her severe black habit and kick her heels up.
Sister Act is not the best musical ever, but it is remarkably entertaining and uplifting, proving a worthy tonic to cheer up the darkest day or the stoniest heart.
- Sister Act The Musical is at London Palladium: Monday to Saturday at 7.30 p.m., matinees Wednesday & Saturday at 3 p.m.
- Tickets: 0844 412 2704
- Sister Act The Musical