The 1992 film Sister Act was an absolute hit and still has a warm place in our hearts for many of us, but now it’s making a comeback on stage with an all-singing, all-dancing cast filled with even more laughter and musical numbers. Being performed at the Manchester Palace Theatre this summer, ahead of the Sister Act production playing London’s Eventim Apollo, Mancs can see sisters doing it for themselves as they break it down on the chapel floor and belt out catchy songs that’ll have you swaying in your seat.
Starring Sandra Marvin as ‘Deloris Van Cartier’, who has had leading roles in the West End and UK tours of Waitress and Hairspray, and appeared on television shows such as Emmerdale and Call the Midwife, she takes us on a musical and personal journey from a glam night club singer to hiding under a habit to escape her murdering ex. Having sung the title track on the Grammy winning soundtrack for the film Gravity, Marvin boasts an incredible voice allowing her to transition seamlessly from one musical number in Sister Act to the other and hit those high soulful notes, resulting in waves of applause from the audience.
Bringing her comedic prowess to the role, Absolutely Fabulous‘ Jennifer Saunders created some contrast to the film’s casting of ‘Mother Superior’, which saw Maggie Smith play a stern nun at a Californian convent. Saunders’ lines were full of quips paired with humorous facial expressions, truly making the role her own and adding plenty of British humour to the sea of American-accented nuns. Sister Act features a solo song from ‘Mother Superior’ called ‘I Haven’t Got A Prayer’, which sees Saunders maintain her serious, devout Catholic character whilst singing laughable lines like “I got Disco piped unto the cloister, I got glitter whenever you gaze, I got celibate nuns, Out there shaking their buns, Shrieking you and your son’s holy praise.”
Now no convent is complete without its loyal nuns and in the Manchester performance of Sister Act it’s headed up by a number of talented actors, dancers and singers. Featuring The Greatest Showman‘s Keala Settle as ‘Sister Mary Patrick’, Lesley Joseph as ‘Sister Mary Lazarus’ and Lizzie Bea as ‘Sister Mary Robert’ in the nun ensemble and the church choir, the arrival of Deloris transforms the choir from tone-deaf to terrific, unleashing some powerful voices that were previously muted. This trio of actors give marvellous performances bowling over their fellow characters on stage as well as the audience by their talent.
Adding to the accomplished cast is Clive Rowe, who is best known for his role as Duke in The Story of Tracy Beaker and also appeared in the 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast as Cuisinier. Born in Oldham, Rowe plays policeman Eddie Souther who is infatuated with Deloris and will do what it takes to protect her from her vengeful ex. Rowe’s character develops during the storyline from a shy sheriff to a more confident man of the law as he shimmies and sings on a desk waving goodbye to his nickname of ‘Steady Eddie’.
But it’s not just Rowe who has moves as Damian Buhagiar (‘Pablo’), Tom Hopcroft (‘Joey’) and Bradley Judge (‘TJ’) play a troublesome trio who are part of Deloris’ ex-boyfriend Curtis Jackson (played by Jeremy Secomb)’s gang, whose choreographed routines left some jaws hanging. Other actors who brought out some surprising (and humorous) dance moves to their roles included Graham MacDuff (head of the church ‘Monsignor O’Hara’), Lesley Joseph (‘Sister Mary Lazarus’) and of course the queen of comedy, Jennifer Saunders (‘Mother Superior’) towards the end of the performance as the convent united once more.
Creating a perfect finish to the characters’ performance are the costume, music, sound, lighting and set design. The audience is left wowed as the stage and characters transition from a glitzy night club to a local police station to a church with architectural features, even creating an echo sound effect associated with places of worship.
The music composed by Alan Menken is uplifting and it’s hard to resist the urge to tap your feet to the tunes or clap to the rhythm of the beat. If you don’t leave the theatre with a smile and humming at least one song from the musical (in or out of tune), you might just be made of stone because Sister Act is a class act.
Sister Act runs at the Palace Theatre in Manchester until July 9. Book tickets here.