The nuns in Sister Act

Hallelujah and praise the lord, says Rachel Bailey, that the touring musical production of Sister Act is as sassy, funny and heartfelt as the original 1992 film.

I did a quick scan of the audience moments before the curtain was about to rise at the start of Sister Act, and spotted a group of excitable spectators wearing nun habits and drinking wine.

I smiled to myself, satisfied; I knew the love for the original film would endure the transition to stage. While this is not the first stage version of Sister Act - it’s previously run in the West End and on Broadway - this is an all-new production choreographed and directed by Craig Revel Horwood of Strictly Come Dancing fame.

There’s always a risk with stage adaptations of films that they will flop, and as a big fan of the original Sister Act, I would have been disappointed if this show didn’t live up to my expectations. However, my fears were dispersed within minutes of the musical starting. This show is, quite frankly, phenomenal.

Alexandra Burke

Pictured: Alexandra Burke as Deloris Van Cartier.

Sister Act tells the story of a disco diva called Deloris Van Cartier who sees her mobster lover commit murder. She’s relocated for protection in the disguise of a nun in a convent, and proceeds to upend the quiet lives of the resident sisters. She also teaches them to sing – and sing they do, from start to finish.

The character of Deloris Van Cartier, played by Whoopi Goldberg in the film, has been assigned to the 2008 X Factor winner Alexandra Burke. Please, I thought to myself, please let Burke do justice to Goldberg’s Van Cartier.

Burke has done more than justice to the role. She’s made it her own – Burke’s Deloris Van Cartier is sexy, sassy and quick-witted – while also staying loyal to the film. She’s got every little Goldberg-esque gesture down to a T, from her American accent to her habit of leaping around while conducting the nun’s choir. I think fans of the film will appreciate this; I certainly did.

Sister Act

Pictured: Karen Mann, Alexandra Burke and Jon Robyns in Sister Act.

And Burke’s acting was an eye opener – she’s really, really funny. I expected her to be the star of the show because of her voice, but her acting talents, comic timing and energy made me forget that she was a reality TV show winner.

I was apprehensive that Burke’s celebrity status might overshadow all other actors, but I needn’t have worried. Every cast member puts on a Class A show, from the Mother Superior, played by Karen Mann, to ‘Sweaty Eddy’ the heroic policeman, played by Jon Robyns.

The strongest vocal performances come from Burke (obviously), and Sarah Goggin who plays Sister Mary Robert. Both singers had me breaking out in goosebumps on more than one occasion. 

Other great features in Sister Act include the fact that the cast is also the band. Is there anything more fun than watching a group of demure nuns go from dreary caterwauling to brandishing their brass instruments and belting out a sexed-up gospel number? The majority of the cast play instruments, and it’s fantastic to witness such a talented group of people.

Sister Act

Pictured: Alexandra Burke.

A big shout out to American lyricist Glenn Slater, and to musical supervisor Sarah Travis. This show would not be what it is without the attention that’s been given to the songs, because above all, this show is about the power of music. There is not just one big number in Sister Act; there are more than ten.

I really recommend that groups who enjoy a big sparkly musical night out book tickets immediately. Bring your best voice for yelling hallelujah and be prepared to laugh your socks off.

I hope that by the end, you’ll be of the same opinion as me – that in the current offerings from the world of theatre, Sister Act really does come second to nun.

Sister Act is touring UK venues until August 2017. GTOs should contact their chosen venue for information about group rates.

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