Sister Act – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Charlotte Scott, April 2012
Musical comedy, Sister Act, is brought to Leeds Grand Theatre by producers Whoopi Goldberg and Stage Entertainment (Hairspray, High School Musical). It is direct from its record-breaking run at the London Palladium.
It is set in 1970’s Philadelphia. Here is a place where the sounds of soul and funk music fill the nightclubs. Where disco diva Deloris Van Cartier (Cynthia Erivo) dreams of performing. However, after witnessing a murder, her dreams shatter. Deloris is placed in protective custody in the one place police are sure she will not be found – a convent!
Disguised as a nun, ‘Sister Mary Clarence’, and hiding from her criminal boyfriend Curtis (Cavin Cornwall), she struggles to adapt to the strict convent lifestyle. She doesn’t see eye-to-eye with uptight Mother Superior (Denise Black). Using her talents, Deloris inspires the sisters to revamp their tired choir. As a result, the convent enters the spotlight. This blows her cover in the process. It’s not long before Curtis and his gang find Deloris – and the chase is underway.
This musical version of the smash-hit film is more of a rebirth than an adaptation. Gospel is replaced by disco, making Sister Act polished family fun, with 1970’s classics, glitter, and flares. I expected to hear songs from the film. Instead it features a brand new score by eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken. His credits include Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and, most recently, the hit movie Enchanted.
This feel-good show is filled with songs inspired by Motown, funk, soul and disco. All the cast performances are brilliant. Highlights include the solo performances by Deloris and Sister Mary Robert (Julie Atherton). The on-stage costume changes are impressive. Tyrone Huntley, playing TJ, shines through in his professional debut as Curtis’s cheeky and innocent younger brother.
The set is one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. Backdrops form using layers and screens. These form shadows to create the look of the dark and drab church. Spectacular lighting formations add to the glitz and glam during the big musical numbers with some brilliant use of colour.
Full of clever and witty moments from musical numbers like ‘It’s Good to be a Nun’ to cartoon-like chase scenes straight out of Scooby Doo, loveable characters, lasting friendships – not to forget a little romance – this show provides something for all the family.