Theatre Review: SISTER ACT – Palace Theatre, Manchester

The cast of SISTER ACT

The cast of SISTER ACT. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Big, bold and bright, SISTER ACT plays to its strengths, making this feel-good musical worthy of its new run.

4 out of 5 stars

Following its postponed run in 2021, the eagerly anticipated brand-new production of the Broadway and UK smash hit musical SISTER ACT finally makes its premiere at Manchester’s Palace Theatre ahead of a major London run.

Based on the hit 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, SISTER ACT follows club singer Deloris Van Cartier who is put in protective custody at a local convent after witnessing a brutal murder. Finding herself at odds with the uptight Mother Superior, Deloris uses her vocal talent to inspire the choir, helping to breathe new life into the church and community but blowing her cover along the way.

Lesley Joseph and Sandra Mavin in SISTER ACT. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

The last time SISTER ACT ran at the London Palladium in 2019, it received mixed reviews from critics. Thankfully, it is clear that Director Bill Buckhurst and his creative team have worked hard to iron out the issues of the past to make this feel-good musical worthy of its new run.

Playing to the show’s strengths – music and comedy – Buckhurst makes the most of Morgan Large’s big, bold and bright set and costume design, Alistair David’s hilarious choreography and Alan Menken and Glenn Slater’s witty score, to ramp up the joyous fun of the piece.

Much of the show’s success lies with its casting. EMMERDALE and WAITRESS star Sandra Marvin shines in the lead role of Deloris, bringing vibrancy to the stage in her opening number, TAKE ME TO HEAVEN.

The best of the comedy comes from Jennifer Saunders as Mother Superior who displays just the right amount of icy disapproval to make her character both believable and funny.

In addition to the two leads, several other performers make a mark. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN’s Keala Settle displays infectious energy as Sister Mary Patrick, while TV and West End legend Lesley Joseph brings her wicked sense of humour to her role as Sister Mary Lazarus.

The cast of SISTER ACT. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

There’s also a noteworthy performance from HAIRSPRAY favourite Lizzie Bea as the innocent novice Sister Mary Robert whose performance of THE LIFE I NEVER LED is truly moving.

Everything buzzes along to Menken and Slater’s witty score, which mixes Motown, soul and disco styles with FABULOUS BABY and the rousing RAISE YOUR VOICE standing out amongst the musical numbers.

The show, however, could still benefit from a little trimming here and there. Almost every key cast member is given their own song and a couple of the numbers seem to exist purely to fill time, rather than to push the plot along.

That said, there’s plenty to love in SISTER ACT and more than enough fun to make this heavenly musical both joyous and uplifting in equal measure.

SISTER ACT runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 9 July 2022