Vicky Smith is razzled, dazzled and ultimately heart-warmed by this soulful story of sisterhood
Considering it’s directed by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood, I was expecting Sister Act to be an all-singing, all-dancing spectacle of glittering proportions.
I wasn’t disappointed.
The play began with a droll recording of Horwood, advising us mobiles were ‘strictly’ prohibited darlings, and finished by showering the audience in confetti come curtain call. In between was a high definition hurtle through seventies soul; with original music by eight-time Tony and Oscar award winner Alan Menken.
Based on the 1993 film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith - one of the highest grossing comedies of all time - the Sister Act tour sees the habits again hit the road again in all their idiosyncratic glory. For those unfamiliar, the plot follows talented (yet undiscovered) disco diva Deloris Van Cartier, whose life takes an unexpected turn when she witnesses her mobster boyfriend Curtis commit murder. With Curtis still on the loose and her own life in danger, the police squirrel her away in the one place she surely can’t be found…a convent.
Disguised as a nun and under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris is enlisted to get the unruly choir in order - but their unprecedented success is bittersweet as TV appearances lead to a certain someone discovering her whereabouts. Fortunately, Deloris now has the support of her unlikely friends and the tale winds up with an empowering message of sisterhood and friendship: the choir find their voice as Deloris unexpectedly finds her own, and realises there’s more to life than the pursuit of fame and fortune.
X Factor star Alexandra Burke is outstanding as Dolores, that rare instance of a likeable diva whose extravagant mannerisms often had the audience chuckling, and her singing was pitch perfect too. The nuns were equally hilarious, as diverse as the instruments they (discordantly) played. But my ultimate favourite scene was a drunken Mother Superior, bemoaning Deloris’ presence in her nightgown and slippers before woozily pulling open a cupboard door to reveal her impressive secret stash of booze.
From villainous, manipulative club owner Curtis to the awkwardly adorable ‘Sweaty Eddie’ who lusted after Deloris at school - and whose dreams come true when she finally pays him attention - the character development is as consistent as the talented instrumentalists and often amusing choreography; the latter also courtesy of Revel Horwood, whose extensive West End credits span Sunset Boulevard to Miss Saigon.
Sets were sumptuous, transitioning effortlessly from one scene to the next, and the vintage costumes - bell bottoms, wide collar shirts, chunky heels - a fitting throwback to seventies style. Equally OTT was the lighting, at one point spangling the whole theatre in ‘stars.’
Verdict? Sister Act is as heart-warming and entertaining as its convent of nuns - a divine musical comedy indeed.
Sister Act is at the Palace Theatre until 29 July