Sister Act Review by Nina Jervis

September 12, 2023

What can I tell you about Sister Act that you don’t know already? Not much, I’d wager.

You already know it’s a musical based on a comedy-film about singing nuns, which starred Whoopi Goldberg and Dame Maggie Smith. If you were alive in 1992, you probably saw the film when it was released. Most people did.

The musical is faithful to the film, in that the story is the same and the characters are the same. The songs aren’t the same, though. Due to copyright issues with the original soundtrack, these are brand-new; composed and written by Broadway stalwarts Alan Mencken and Glenn Slater.

On the off-chance that you don’t know the story, it’s set in the late ‘70s and features a vivacious singer called Deloris Van Cartier. She’s performing in a club owned by her gangster boyfriend Curtis, but things take a sinister turn when she accidentally witnesses him shooting a police informant later on.

Deloris goes straight to the police, who put her into a witness protection program somewhere Curtis and his goons definitely won’t find her. This happens to be a local convent, where Deloris has to dress and live as a nun. As you’d expect, she struggles to fit in at first. But then she takes over the (terrible) choir and they improve so much that they end up performing for the Pope.

As you’d expect, the singing is amazing. The new songs are fine. They include the well-known Fabulous, Baby!, belted out to perfection by Landi Oshinowo as Deloris, and The Life I Never Led, with genuinely outstanding vocals by Lizzie Bea as Sister Mary Robert. The performances are all slick and accomplished, if a little bit cartoonish. But we don’t need drama or tension, do we? Especially since we’re only ever a few minutes away from the next song.

There are plenty of laughs, particularly from Curtis’s three OTT goons, ‘Steady Eddie’ the policeman (who has a crush on Deloris), and of course nuns singing, dancing, and rapping throughout… scenes that will clearly never get old. Lesley Joseph, as the convent’s acerbic Mother Superior, has excellent comic timing and a commanding on-stage presence; again as you’d expect.

There’s a brilliant live orchestra performing the music, which is pitch-perfect throughout. Naturally, there’s a sequin-festooned finale, during which it’s impossible not to smile.

I’m really not telling you anything new here, am I? But that, I suppose, is sort-of the point. Sister Act is a good, reliable musical. It won’t challenge you. It won’t surprise you. But if you already like the film, and you’re looking for an evening steeped in feelgood energy, it will do the job.


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