Twenty-five years ago, Whoopi Goldberg became an international sensation because of a low-budget-feel-good film called Sister Act. The story followed the adventures of a lounge singer, who unintentionally, becomes a witness to a murder by her gangster boyfriend.
The plot twist? To keep their star witness alive, the police stow the diva in the least likely of places: a rundown convent on the verge of closure. There she finds another calling, working with the tone-deaf choir (now as new recruit Sister Mary Clarence) to bring about some revelation in how they can musically share God’s message to their dwindling congregation.
Set in Philadelphia in 1978, the disco era, the stage musical draws on the talents of Alan Menken to create new songs for the production. However, while the music is resplendent of the era, the creatively re-imagined favourites by Peggy March (I Will Follow Him) and Mary Wells (My Guy) are sorely missed.
The actors, however, put up a good show. Confident and sassy, Keshia Tunks as Deloris Van Cartier is very good. Her voice soars effortlessly as she transitions from a self-absorbed singer to a sister of soul. Helen Medlyn as Mother Superior is equally, if not more so, the star of the show as the unwavering woman of faith.
Sammie Campbell, as the young Mary Roberts, deserves a mention for her well-chiselled performance, while Keith Marr’s solo as the lovelorn policeman Eddie Southern is memorable.
The highlights are John Harding’s stunning set and Lesley Burkes-Harding’s vibrant costumes but, ultimately, it’s still a tad too Disney and the first 20 minutes are clunky, with wandering accents, as the actors settle in.
Fortunately, once the tempo starts rising, it stays relatively high and the show is an enjoyable, if somewhat diluted, rendition of its original. It’s a fun family night out but it just might not be enough to get you to the church on time.