Quick precis for those who, like me, missed the 1992 film of the same name: would-be diva Deloris Von Cartier, having seen a mob killing, is hidden in a convent under an ad hoc witness protection programme. The sassy singer whips the nuns into a frenzy of gospel disco to fill the collection boxes and pews saving the decaying church much to the consternation of the straight-laced Mother Superior. But her addiction to the limelight brings the thugs to the chancel doors allowing her much-maligned love-struck paramour to save the day.
Cynthia Erivo (Madeleine in Umbrellas of Cherbourg) does a sterling job in filling the purple suede thigh boots of the charismatic Whoopi Goldberg, stamping her own mark on the lead role with a voice almost as big as her hair.
Cheri and Bill Steinkellner’s quickfire libretto, with additional material by Douglas Carter Beane, is little more than the vehicle to glue together pantomimic comedy, and Alan Menken and Glenn Slater’s Philly Sound numbers.
Klara Zieglerova’s set is tremendous – dour cloisters, sleazy clubs, battered cop shop, and increasingly flashy stained glass and Madonnas while Lez Brotherston’s costume mantra is versatility (just how does Eddie do that quick change?) and bling. Fab.
A very capable and energetic cast keep the mixed audience foot-tapping and laughing with Jacqueline Clarke (Dave Allen’s stalwart sidekick), Laurie Scarth (UK tour of Hairspray) and Julie Atherton (latterly Serena in UK tour of Fame and having just released her second album), stand-out as ancient rapper Sister Mary Lazarus, fubsy funster Sister Mary Patrick and shy Sister Mary Robert.
Goosepimple-raising bass Gavin Cornwall is suitably menacing as mobster Curtis whose hapless sidekicks Tony (Daniel Stockton, Les Miserables), Pablo (Gavin Alex, Oliver, “Mini Jason Orange” in Take That’s Hometown tour) and TJ (a show-stealing debut by a charismatic Tyrone Huntley) provide a wonderfully funny backing dancer routine particularly when demonstrating just what their boss will do to Deloris ‘When I Find My Baby’.
Corrie’s Denise Black is downbeat as Mother Superior while Brookside’s Michael Starke swaps Sinbad for a cameo as Monsignoir O`Hara and Edward Baruwa (guest soloist at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Hyde Park 60th celebrations) is Sweaty Eddie.
And what a difference live music makes when all too often musicals are sung to tapes. Here pianist Mark Crossland directs the 12-piece Orchestra with zest and precision.
Generally not a great musical lover myself, this clearly ticks all the boxes, delights its packed houses and will run and run. An entertaining 150 minutes.