Yesterday afternoon, my friend Adam and I caught the matinée for Sister Act – The Musical; currently in previews at the London Palladium and set to open on Tuesday June 2nd, 2009.
I was very fortunate to get chance to see the show as my original opportunity was for the week prior and clashed with Little Shop Of Horrors; so hurrah for Adam and the Hairspray outing! I was especially pleased to be watching the show with Adam as I was looking forward to an ‘insiders’ view of the staging to contrast with my own ‘enthusiasts’ view.
We both came out of it thinking the same thing really; the opening was terrible, but as it went along, it got a lot better, and we were both up at the end, wildly swinging our rosary beads with the rest of the jubilant (and upstanding) congregation.
Realistically, we’re talking about a a show comprising of Sheila Hancock and a sisterhood of disco nuns… so it’s hard to go wrong really! 😉
First, I shall tackle the thorny subject of the opening few minutes. You’re opening the London Palladium of all places… you want a huge opening, maybe a lounge act, a few bangs and sparkles, maybe Delores flies in over the crowd… and instead you get Mother Superior stood in the corner, meekly asking for someone to help the convent. Disappointing.
The pre-set of a purple curtain and a large gold cherub was like something ripped off the So Graham Norton credits… ugh! I do hope that the creative team behind the show tweak the whole opening before they get out of previews, as, if you open the show on a bad note, it takes a long time to recover in my opinion; which was true of this show.
The gangsters who were after Delores were comedic (and rarely in a good way… sorry!… script more than actors, of course!) and in my opinion should have been a lot nastier and scarier than they were.
However, those are my only major (and grudging) criticisms of what is otherwise a fantastic show!
Whilst Alan Menken’s soundtrack for this musical isn’t going to set the world alight I’m afraid to report, there are only two decent songs in the production (which they repeat endlessly!), it is certainly foot-tappingly fabulous.
The real winners in this production are the people behind the set design. It is absolutely remarkable how they turn the stage around… it really has to be seen to be believed. A very versatile set with some innovative mechanics behind it. I envisage several technical awards when it comes to award season next year!
Most of the characters were great, with my particular favourites being Sister Mary-Lazarus, Sister Mary-Patrick and, of course, Delores. Some great casting / portrayals in there from a very accomplished company of actors.
Patina Miller is a genuine gem and I think she’s great in the role of Delores.
Disappointingly, Ian Lavender (of Dad’s Army fame, in Sister Act playing Monsignor Howard) was barely in it and didn’t really have much of a role to play, and I thought the back-story behind Sister Mary-Robert was surplus and bored me slightly.
There has been a lot of hype about this show (unfortunately, most of it self-generated by the Sister Act press office!), however I do think that this is a good show, and it managed to do something that a production has not managed to do for me in quite a while; which surprised me. I was actually welling up a little and felt very uplifted at the end of the show…! I’ve been jaded in my theatrical pursuits in the past few years, however this show really did give me that huge overwhelming feel-good-vibe that I’ve probably not felt since first seeing Hairspray (and them finishing on”You Can’t Stop The Beat”)
I give it a few years in the West End and think that it is definitely fabulous as a new piece of musical theatre making it’s debut.
I would heartily recommend it as a fun and uplifting show – at times you want them to just burst into the songs from the film (and to hell with the copyright… I’ll pay my share!) – however the story does transfer well, and definitely works as a stand alone piece of theatre.
Sister Act is currently booking until February 2010 at the (gorgeous) Palladium Theatre, London.
The show runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes (including interval).
For a BBC interview with Sheila Hancock (Mother Superior) along with a few clips of the show, please click HERE.