Sister Act Review | Palace Theatre | Manchester
Alexandra Burke knows how to dance in heels and fill some rather large shoes. The former X-Factor winner has hit the Palace Theatre for the second year running to take over as one of Whoopi Goldberg’s most recognisable characters. Burke, who plays Deloris Van Cartier, brings the star power and striking vocals to this entertaining reimagining of everyone’s favourite faux nun.
After witnessing her mobster boyfriend murder an informant, lounge singer Deloris is placed in witness protection under the guise of Sister Mary Clarence. Bringing the sparkle of her disco days to the rundown routines of the church choir, Deloris liberates the women through music and brings a new audience to the tired convent.
This cast is multifaceted and engaging despite working with some slightly dated material. Alongside their stellar singing, many of the sisters played an instrument while performing. With a jaw-dropping performance from Mother Superior (Karen Mann) who stopped her heavenly singing part way through ‘Spread The Love Around’ only to begin playing the trumpet.
Directed and choreographed by long-running Strictly Come Dancing judge, Craig Revel Horwood, the shows use of disco balls and a conveyor belt of sparkly outfits amplify the world in which Horwood comes from. It’s an impressive set that switches between the nunnery, detective’s office and club scenes to keep the party atmosphere ongoing.
Do not expect to hear any of the original music featured in either of the Sister Act films. This is a new concoction that includes lyrics from Tony-nominated writer, Glenn Slater. Slater, who has written music for the Broadway versions of The Little Mermaid and School of Rock, rustles up a few comic gems including ‘When I Find My Baby’ and ‘Lady In The Long Black Dress’ that help capture the spirit of Sister Act.
Despite its lovable cast, by the end of the production I felt a little disappointed and I wondered if it was the nunnery that remained outdated or if my love for the original Act was too strong. The charmingly character-driven original was an unexpected feel-good hit, showing its characters overcoming prejudice and unifying over their love of the parishioners. But the sisterly bond in this stage adaptation has been weakened by its amped-up revival that loses its relatable qualities in a quest to be cool. Rapping grannies, negro puns and the line ‘You’re still a negro right?’ had me question who the joke was on. Where race was never a punchline in the films, this show includes some uncomfortable moments where the forced humour centres its comedy around Deloris' blackness with a different vibe than its light-hearted original.