Hollywood legend Whoopi Goldberg, Love Never Dies lyricist Glenn Slater and Little Mermaid composer Alan Menken have proven themselves to be something of a Holy trinity of musical theatre with their West End adaptation of Sister Act.
Deloris Van Cartier is fabulous, baby, and doesn’t she know it. She has the world at her pink-suede clad feet, a voice which could freeze the hottest Donna Summer number and the love of Curtis, one of Philadelphia’s most highly decorated gangsters. After witnessing the murder of one of Curtis’ goons, she is forced to flee from her malevolent lover, seeking sanctuary amongst the candles and cloisters of a local convent.
Cynthia Erivo is outstanding as the brash and brassy Deloris. Her vocal range is exceptional, finding the power and energy of an era of excess, smoothly grooving to Menken’s exceptional score with all of the pep and sass of Diana Ross easing down the road.
Denise Black, too, is simply divine as the haughty Mother Superior, lingering in the darkness of the convent with an aristocratic arrogance which is as haughtily delicious as a foie gras prepared by Clarissa Dixon Wright. The emotional journey which she takes with Erivo’s Van Cartier is as round as a communion wafer and helps to make Sister Act a show which combines the Soul of Diana Ross with the soul of the human spirit.
The praises which could be sung of Jerry Zaks’ West End calibre cast could fill a book of psalms. Looking like a line of penguins on parade at Edinburgh Zoo, these sisters of perpetual faith are as melodic as they are hilarious. The exceptional Julie Atherton acts Mary Roberts’ trademark cotton socks off and Cavin Cornwall oozes as much talent as he does villainy in the role of killer Curtis. Indeed, each and every member of the cast is quite exceptional.
Had the girls been bold enough to pass around a collection basket, there could not have been many people who would not have happily paid the ticket price again. It is a rare and splendid thing to see an audience so enthused with a new, unfamiliar musical. If there is a God above, he would certainly have heard the raptures of laughter and applause thundering from the Kings Theatre in Glasgow.
Collect your guitar, Sister Maria, and dance your way over those hills: Sister Act is the new saviour of musical theatre.