Did the critics sing Sister Act's praises?
The new revival opens in London
Alex Wood, WhatsOnStage
"Director Bill Buckhurst, whose last production seen in London was the playfully intimate Ghost Quartet at the Boulevard, gives scenes a pithy fleetness that suits the irreverential, playful material. The show is no stranger to UK stages, and while the Goldberg film has a surprisingly understated sweetness, everything here is a deluge of sugar-rush sentimentality and spirited vim, peppered with small insights into the meaning of faith, community, and, of course, sister-hood (or would it be sister-coif?).
"It ends up as a wildfire trip through a kaleidoscopic Philadelphia (none of the dreary greys of the original film) on designer's Morgan Large's glittery menagerie of set pieces. Particular kudos goes to the slick transition from convent to hell-themed dive bar. Large also makes the most of the occasional chance to go beyond a stage full of dull habits, with Rowe's two rapid-fire costume changes providing delight to audiences during "I Could Be That Guy"."
Nicole Vassell, The Independent
"...The cast is packed to the (church) rafters with talent: Lesley Joseph and Keala Settle are hilarious opposites, portraying Sisters Mary Lazarus (crotchety with a penchant for rap) and Mary Patrick (simply ecstatic to be alive). Lizzie Bea is also delightful as young nun Sister Mary Robert; "The Life I Never Led", a genuinely moving number about her fear of missing out on the outside world before having a chance to experience it, spotlights her sweet, strong vocals.
"Sister Act is primarily Deloris's show, which is no bad thing when you have someone like Knight steering the ship. The rest of the cast is so good that sometimes you wish for a few more opportunities to allow everyone to shine even brighter. But in any case, the show's an irresistibly great time – thank God it's finally here."
Natasha Tripney, The Stage
"There is some heavenly ensemble work from the cast. Keala Settle, the best thing in the objectionable The Greatest Showman, deploys her powerful voice and considerable energy to Sister Mary Patrick, while Lesley Joseph revels in her role as the crabby Sister Mary Lazarus. Lizzie Bea, recently seen as Tracy Turnblad at the Coliseum, is requisitely endearing and heartfelt as novice nun Sister Mary Robert.
"The stage musical's relocation to 1970s Philadelphia allows Alan Menken and Glenn Slater to stuff the show with disco and soul-infused tunes – including the innuendo-laced opener "Take Me to Heaven". The book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner also includes some lines that feel like they have been transplanted directly from the 1970s, including a comedic Mexican henchman (Damian Buhagiar) and Deloris confusing 'postulant' with 'prostitute'."
Clive Davis, The Times
"Knight, who only recently stepped down from the eccentric but tuneful West End show The Drifters Girl, certainly has the chops to handle the ebullient 70s-themed score by the composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater. There are some inspired hot gospel belters, particularly in the first half's "Take Me to Heaven", but you can't help wondering how much of a difference Whoopi Goldberg's larger-than-life personality would have made to an amiable venture — economically directed by Bill Buckhurst — that faces the challenge of how to fill such an imposing space. Morgan Large's set design is a little basic. Knight works tremendously hard as the audience cheers her on, but her acting tends to hit the same note in every scene."
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard
"Of course, the show was originally planned for a short, glitzy run in 2020 with Whoopi Goldberg taking the lead role of Deloris again, 30 years on, at the age of 64, therefore capitalising on both familiarity and novelty. This big barn of a concert venue offered the most favourable return, even though it's not conducive to inventive stage sets or atmosphere. Designer Morgan Large does his best with a series of stained-glass frames, but the nuns inevitably look like a bunch of excitable penguins.
"We can only speculate whether Goldberg would have been a triumph or a car crash. So, let's thank God - or whoever - for Beverley Knight, whose vocal power and sassy stage presence lift a hodgepodge of a musical into something much brighter. Saunders's dry, acerbic head nun is a useful counterbalance to Knight's ebullience, even if she's not used here to best advantage."
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
"It's a solid production from Bill Buckhurst with some fun set-pieces: in particular, Rowe's double-quick change in the song "I Could Be That Guy" is truly astounding, while the lurid curtain-call costumes are a migraine-inducing delight (it's great work all round from costume designer Morgan Large). And Menken and Slater's exuberant, often genuinely funny songs have some definite keepers in their ranks: the musical is set in ‘70s Philadelphia (as opposed to the film's ‘90s San Francisco), and the soulful nods to the styles of the era suit Knight down to the ground."