From Whitney to Whoopee, you have to hand it to the girl, versatility is the name of the game. As a show Sister Act is indeed a million miles away from The Bodyguard. There might not be any lung busters here, but this gospel-inspired soundtrack rocks da house. Yo!
While some movie blockbusters never do quite manage to translate that well onto stage, Sister Act feels like it was always meant to be this way. All cloisters and arches Matthew Wright’s nunnery is a suitably airy space, but one nevertheless that never stops pulsating thanks to a talented cast of actor-musicians.
Playing it for laughs is a challenge for any performer especially so when a show is this eponymous. So, how do you top Miss Goldberg? Answer: You don’t, you play it your way. And it has to be said, in the main Miss Burke does a fine job here and if occasionally she lapses into Goldberg-isms then it’s not entirely unexpected nor unwelcome.
Although the star of the show is undeniably Burke’s Deloris/Sister Mary, this a dream job for the ensemble cast who also double up as the show’s musicians. Clad in their habits, clutching trombone and trumpet, the sisters are having a rollicking time up there and oh how it shows.
A strong supporting cast have their moments too. Sister Act really does share the love. A highlight of the show is Mother Superior’s (Karen Mann) solo number ‘Heaven help me’ – a lament to how things have er…changed since Sister Mary’s arrival. (‘Strobe lights in the chapel...getting down to the hymns’)
Sister Act is a show with a buzz. Although it takes a few minutes to find its feet, when this show does hit its stride there is no going back. Burke is a revelation, so much more than just a great set of lungs. Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood has concocted a devilishly infectious show, bright, bouncy and just ever so slightly brash.
It is often the case that the blockbuster movie often overshadows the stage version which inevitably follows, but with Sister Act it’s arguably the other way around. No need to hire the DVD in this case. No reference points required on this stage. All you need is right in front of you.
Should a brooding brother ever advise that you “get thee to a nunnery,” if it’s anything like the one in Sister Act, you’d be well advised to go. Nunneries just shouldn’t be this much fun!
Do not, gentle theatre-goers judge Miss Goldberg too harshly henceforth. For Miss Burke and friends are a hard act to follow.