Photography: Mark Senior

I’m a sucker for anything with nuns in it, The Sound Of Music, Black Narcissus… it’s that combination of humble piety and a ridiculously comedic costume, it does it every time. So Sister Act was surely bound to appeal, then again the familiarity of the original film with Whoopi Goldberg would surely set the bar pretty high. I need not have worried, from the opening moment, a stunningly good and flexible set, excellent lighting and a punchy pit orchestra I was in!

The story of gangsters and nuns is truly absurd but with a cast this good at delivering both the comedy and the songs it all seemed perfectly feasible.

The role of Deloris Van Cartier AKA Sister Mary Clarence is surely the one that will attract most comparison, but Landi Oshinowo nails it, belting out that opening number Take Me To Heaven but really getting into her stride with Fabulous Baby! And the comedy really comes to life when her lover and his ramshackle clutch of hoods arrive on the scene. And those hoods and their creepy falsetto harmonies and bizarre macho posturing make for some of the biggest laughs of the evening, especially their beautifully precise choreography.

On the first night the role of Mother Superior was taken by Kate Powell and it was certainly a superior performance, what a voice, what clarity of diction, it was masterful with notes of the greatest nun of all time, yes Julie Andrews. And those clipped English tones, the original role is of course played as English, well they add the neccessary gravitas.

The chorus of nuns is just great and beautifully cast, and their characterisation, especially in the dance sections is hysterical. The singing, from awful at the start, not an easy thing to get right if you can sing, to both raunchy and funky and angelic is superb. There are plenty of stand out moments but special mention must go to Eloise Runnette who as Sister Mary Robert has one of the best numbers in the show, The Life I Never Led.

Praise too must go to Alfie Parker as Eddie Souther, the cop with a heart of gold. His comedy talent is obvious from the moment he walks onto the stage but it belies his real talent – boy can the man sing. The number I Could Be That Guy is outstanding, both funny and moving but above all delivered with real class and he gets the loudest applause of the evening, deservedly so.

There are great moments of comedy, of music and lashings of glamour at the final scene when the stage is filled with a rainbow of sequinned nuns, altar boys, prisoners and a sparkling police chief.

The film was good, of course it was, but this is equal to it and has some really great songs driving the whole along. It’s certainly a fun night of musical theatre, a perfect way to brighten any day.

Andrew Kay

11 March

Theatre Royal Brighton

Rating: ★★★★★

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