Review: Sister Act at the New Wimbledon Theatre

Following a run at the London Palladium, a previous UK touring production and stint on Broadway, Sister Act: The Musical returns to the UK in this glossy new production featuring former X Factor starlet Alexandra Burke.

We’re told that the first rule of singing is to get the rafters ringing, and that’s exactly what Alexandra did. Sing? The building bloody shook!

Deloris Van Cartier is a role made for Whoopi Goldberg. It would be somewhat unfair to compare the two, but naturally you will. Alexandra, noticeably younger and more excitable in character, feels like the younger sister to what Whoopi was in the movie. Call it the louder outfits, higher boots and belting voice of a diva, but it felt different. And for a movie that everyone in the world just about loves, it’s a smart move from the singer.

Impressive in acting ability but soaring in voice, Alexandra had her audience with her throughout the entire night. Never without total delivery, Craig Revel Horwood’s revival trusting in Alexandra is was a smart move; one that totally pays off!

For the three of you reading that don’t know this story… A singer on Philadelphia’s soul scene, Deloris is caught up in a murder committed by Curtis at his club — a man she’s both professionally and personally tied with. The prime witness to send him down, she’s hidden away in a convent for her own protection. From there, she meets a whole new set of friends that teach her about the power of friendship. But as she and the choir become successful, and news starts to spread, is Curtis about to find Deloris and send her in the same direction as the man he killed?

Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner’s book is a clear devise of how you put on a musical. It’s regularly funny and unexpectedly touching when it exactly needs to be. Sarah Travis’ arrangement of Disney icon Alan Menken’s music however is the real creative star turn here. It’s true that there’s very little Alan can do wrong, and this is the perfect example of that. Hitting the story exactly where it needs, this bold and brassy sound is sure to have you feeling like you’ve been taken to heaven on many occasions. Church? We’re going all the way!

The actor-musician element, however impressive, does regularly distract from the dance ability of this ensemble of nuns, and even the leading lady who finds herself handing out instruments when she should be sending us to the Lord.

Aaron Lee Lambert’s dark and rather charming take on Curtis is a welcomed break from life in the convent. Vocally blessed, he and Jon Robyns as romantic cop Eddie work superbly as an alternative to Alexandra and the nuns. Karen Mann as the Mother Superior a calmer and yet hysterically funny addition.

Sister Act might be far from a piece of perfection, but there’s an overwhelming sense of success that soars from its every move. It’s the ideal musical story for the stage, and is led by a leading lady blessed with a voice from God.

GT gives Sister Act at the New Wimbledon Theatre — 4/5


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