The plot of the highly acclaimed 1992 movie is transplanted to the late 1970s, with a wardrobe and score to match. Like the film, the musical focuses on the story of Delores Van Cartier (like the diamonds, darling), an ex-Catholic school student and aspiring star who, after witnessing a murder by her mobster boyfriend Curtis Jackson, is placed in a witness protection scheme at a convent.
The musical uses a completely different soundtrack to the film, a motown and disco-inspired collection of original songs to match the new setting. The new score, composed by Alan Menken, perfectly charts the transformation of the choir of tone-deaf nuns into a group of bedazzled disco-divas who fill the pews of the previously abandoned church. Decked in brand new sequined habits the closing number of the first half (a reprise of the opening number, Take Me to Heaven) was a funky, all-singing, all-dancing ensemble number, with infectious energy levels that encompassed the entire theatre.
The star-boosted cast (which features two ex-soap stars, Denise Black from Coronation Street, and Michael Starke from Brookside) was complemented by a fantastic set and wardrobe. Regular and smooth changes seamlessly transformed the stage from a nightclub lounge into the stark convent along with a number of other scenes including a surreal number in the streets of Philadelphia with a chorus of homeless people. The set changes were built into the action of the show and were a pleasure to watch. However, it was the voice of Cynthia Erviro, playing Delores Van Cartier, which stole the show. From the opening number Take Me to Heaven, a medley of disco-infused soul to the touching Sister Act Erviro displayed the range and power necessary for any leading lady.
The standing ovation at the end of the performance was more than well-deserved. Don’t miss this incredible show.