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Live / stage review

"Fun, spirited and vivacious": Sister Act at the Lyceum

Expanding on the story, the stage version balances plenty of new material with enough of the 1992 film to satisfy long-term fans.

Nuns perform under a halo-style stained glass window

Sister Act

Manuel Harlan

When 70s disco lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier witnesses mobster Curtis, her married, crime-boss lover, murdering one of his cohorts she is placed in witness protection. She's put in the last place on earth anyone would look for such a sassy lady: a run-down convent on the brink of closure.

Trying desperately to fit in, whilst doing nothing but standing out, Deloris is assigned to take over the choir, whose screeching vocals are enough to curl your wimple.

As the singer tunes up the choir, the fortunes of the convent turn around and she finds herself readying the sisters for a performance for the Pope. But the convent’s newfound popularity leads Curtis to find out where Deloris is hiding, and he sets out to make sure she doesn’t testify against him.

A woman wearing a short dress stands under a spotlight

Sandra Marvin as Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act

Manuel Harlan

With songs by Alan Menken (who has composed for many of the Disney Classics, including Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin), Sister Act has an abundance of musical numbers that are toe tapping and feel instantly familiar, even on first listen. Featuring the songs “Raise Your Voice”, “Take Me To Heaven”, “Fabulous Baby” and “Spread the Love Around”, the show is a fun, spirited and vivacious show with plenty of warm characters and a real spring in its step.

Leading the convent, and the cast, is Lesley Joseph (Birds of a Feather), who brings a genuine stage presence and some terrific comedy timing as the Mother Superior. Joseph bounces wonderfully off Gabrielle Davina Smith who steps into the role of Deloris Van Cartier with aplomb and with a voice powerful enough to belt out the big numbers with soul and passion.

There was some very able (and tuneful) support from Clive Rowe as Detective “Steady” Eddie Souther, and a real smooth criminal in Jeremy Secomb as Curtis, the Shaft influenced, soul styled bad guy.

Based on the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, the show expands on the story slightly and continues to be rather charming. It balances plenty of new material to make it appeal to theatre goers, but retaining enough of the original film to satisfy those who love the movie. The story can be enjoyed as the rather whimsical fare it comes across as, but scratch under the surface of the narrative a little and you find not only a story about friendship, but a tale of community and compromise and two diametrically opposed groups of people coming together and overcoming their differences.

On this tour, the production feels slightly more aimed at a family audience than previous versions of the show, which made for a much more enjoyable evening. Whilst never dazzling, the choreography is functional and allows the songs to shine through, especially during the second act, where the musical numbers come thick and fast. The performers playing the sisters get to really shine as they come together with some terrific harmonies and rousing musical set pieces.

Sister Act is a high energy bundle of fun, which has big tunes, bold characters and enough of a beating heart to make for an enjoyable evening at the theatre. It is bound to win you over as it hits its feel-good finale.

Learn more

Sister Act is at Sheffield Lyceum until 15 April. Details of their accessibility policy can be found here.

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