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'Sister Act' review — Raise your voice for this fabulous musical

Suzy Evans
Suzy Evans

Sister Act brings people together. There were people of all walks in the audience at the Eventim Apollo on Wednesday night for the show’s triumphant return to London. Drag queens. 1970s disco devotees. Celebrities. Nostalgic millennials. All of the above. Everyone loves Sister Act and it’s easy to see why.

The musical brings a new lens to the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg as a struggling 1970s nightclub singer who goes undercover as a nun after witnessing a murder. It’s a classic, jubilant story of the power of community and coming together set to rollicking music and full of humour and dancing. Watching the cast of Sister Act absolutely tear up the Eventim Apollo makes you wonder why the show ever left London? Well, the nuns are back, and they all are fabulous, baby.

Beverley Knight is giving a performance as Dolores van Cartier that makes you think, “Whoopi Goldberg, who?” The role requires reinvention for the stage, and from her otherworldly vocals to her impeccable comedic timing, Knight absolutely redefines and becomes this iconic character.

The entire cast is stacked, and each performance leaves you wishing there was a whole musical centered around each nun. Lizzie Bea is a bonafide star as the young Sister Mary Robert, and her Act 2 anthem “The Life I Never Led” had me in tears. Jennifer Saunders delivers her trademark comedy magic as Mother Superior, while Keala Settle’s Sister Mary Patrick hits all the punchlines and notes.

Clive Rowe brings an earnestness to “Steady” Eddie, the cop investigating the case and Dolores’s old high school friend who’s still harbouring a crush. He brings down the house down with his all-out production number “I Could Be That Guy.” Every single person in the cast deserves a shoutout; there are just too many to list. And as a group, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s magical.

Parts of the Bill Buckhurst-directed production get a little lost in the cavernous Eventim Apollo space. Designer Morgan Large’s set is a simple-yet-effective backdrop, and her costumes are bright, catchy, and appropriate to the time period and tone of the show. Tom Marshall’s sound design is booming and permeates the whole space — there are great acoustics in here, after all. And Tim Mitchell’s lighting makes you feel like you’re at a gospel concert.

When the Sister Act film came out in 1992, this heartwarming story won over the hearts of audiences everywhere, and London audiences are going to fall in love with this gem of a show all over again. You’ll leave the theatre humming Alan Menken and Glenn Slater’s fabulous score and ready to come back for more. If you see one show about singing nuns this summer, make it Sister Act at the Eventim Apollo.

Sister Act is at the Eventim Apollo to 28 August. Book Sister Act tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: Beverley Knight and Jennifer Saunders in Sister Act (Photo by Manuel Harlan)

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