Whoopi Goldberg’s turn as nun on the run Deloris Van Cartier has gone down in pop culture history (I Will Follow Him anybody?) and the famous story has now been transferred from screen to stage with Sister Act: The Musical. Originally opening in 2011 on Broadway followed by a record-breaking run at the London Palladium, Deloris and her heavily sequinned sisters arrived at the Leeds Grand Theatre last week and we were there to worship in the church of disco.
Closely following the plot of the film but with an original score, Sister Act The Musical feels like a fresh take on the story whilst still maintaining the heart that made the film the success it was. Some may be disappointed to learn none of the numbers from the film appear in the stage show but with heavenly disco inspired belters such as Fabulous, Baby and Take Me To Heaven that disappointment doesn’t last very long.
The central role was played by Cynthia Erivo, one of those effortless performers who make hitting the big notes look easy. Her powerful voice and natural charisma make Deloris very much the centre of every musical number she’s in, perhaps slightly at odds with the film, in which the choir tend to take the spotlight.
Another departure from the film comes in Sister Mary Robert (the nervous red head with the brilliant voice) who whilst featured in the musical feels under-exploited. Her role in the film seems much larger than the stage show where we’re never really given the opportunity to forge an emotional connection before her character arc is played out in what seems like 5 minutes.
Having said that, it would be folly to judge the musical in terms of the film when actually it stands up very much in its own right as a hugely enjoyable show.
However, I have to confess; whilst the humour was largely on the money there were a couple of jokes that felt a little close to the bone. Set in the 70s, the show can easily claim it is playing the issues of the times against the traditional conservatism of nuns, but does a 2012 audience really need gratuitous “negro” jokes? I’d like to think not.
The set has more glitter and sequins than you could shake a disco stick at and with equally extravagant costumes, your eyes are as well catered for as your ears. Feeling and looking very much like a West End production, Sister Act The Musical is put simply; so damn fabulous, baby.
Sister Act The Musical is playing at Leeds Grand Theatre until the 14th April, ring the box offiice now on 0844 848 2706 or book tickets online, it’d be a sin not to.