REVIEW: SISTER ACT @ THE EVENTIM APOLLO
🎭 Sister Act
📍 Eventim Apollo, 45 Queens Caroline Street, London, W6 9QH
🗓 Wednesday 24th August 2022
A MUSICAL SENT FROM HEAVEN!
Move over Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, there's some new holy messengers in town! What is taking place every night on the stage of London's Eventim Apollo is nothing short of a miracle.
Heavenly musical comedy Sister Act is back and it's bigger and better than ever! I was already a fan of this musical after seeing it numerous times in the past, but this reworking took a machine gun to every production that preceded it and blew them into smithereens.
I sat opened mouthed in awe throughout this entire performance. I thought I knew this musical inside out but Producer Jamie Wilson, alongside Director Bill Buckhurst and Choreographer Alistair David have given us something here that is as close to perfect as possible.
Call it divine intervention if you want, but teamed with set and costume design by Morgan Large and fantastic lighting design by Tim Mitchell, you have a production that would get even the most ardent musical theatre loather up on their feet!
The show essentially follows the same storyline as the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg. When this production was first announced in 2019, Goldberg was set to reprise her role of Deloris Van Cartier. Three years and one pandemic later, the role was phenomenally played by the Queen of British soul music Beverley Knight (The Drifters Girl, Cats, Memphis The Musical, The Bodyguard).
Knight's talent in unquestionable and her voice blows you into the stratosphere and she seems to do it with effortless ease. She belts out powerful tunes such as Fabulous, Baby! to the joy of the audience and gives a stunning performance of the moving ballad Sister Act. She brings a warmth to the character of Deloris and her journey is beautiful to watch.
Mother Superior, played by national treasure Jennifer Saunders (one half of legendary comedy duo French and Saunders), goes on a journey herself during this show. Saunders brings her characteristic wit and likability to this role and I enjoyed her take on the matriarchal nun. Her performance of the song I Haven't Got a Prayer is one of the comedy highlight of the show.
The big names in this production just keep coming and Keala Settle (& Juliet, The Greatest Showman) stars as Sister Mary Patrick. Although not a massive role in terms of showcasing her talent, we see Settle's comedic acting come to the forefront and she is a joy to watch throughout.
Sister Mary Lazarus is played by Lesley Joseph. Joseph (Calendar Girls, Annie, Young Frankenstein) is probably best known for her role as man loving Dorien Green in the sitcom Birds of a Feather. Her theatrical and comedic experience shines in this production and her performance of Rapper's Delight was totally unexpected and so funny that I was doubled over with laughter. When this production tours later this year, Joseph will be taking the role of Mother Superior. I'm sure she'll be equally as good in this role and I look forward to watching her take on the character.
Rising musical theatre star Lizzie Bea (Heathers, Hairspray) shines throughout her portrayal of wavering nun Sister Mary Robert. This young actress deserves a multitude of awards for this role. She plays the part with utter believability and is so lovable. Her performance of The Life I Never Led blew the roof off the Apollo and the audience erupted with well deserved applause at its conclusion. If you don't already know the name Lizzie Bea then you will very soon. I predict she's the next big name in musical theatre.
Clive Roe (Sweet Charity, Guys & Dolls, Chicago) as Eddie Souther has a childlike innocence about him which is endearing to witness. His performance of I Could Be That Guy had some hidden surprises which were great. Again, he has some great comedic moments throughout.
What I love about this production is how it seems to have taken this show apart and completely rebuilt it. It's like a whole fresh set of eyes have come to it without any influence from previous productions and it's a complete triumph. There are many hidden extras throughout and a couple of new songs thrown in too. I was a little disappointed to lose How I Got the Calling but It's Good To Be a Nun which replaced it, and has the same tune as the former, was joyous.
The star quality throughout the entire cast is nothing short of breathtaking. Bradley Judge (Hairspray, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) is sensational as TJ. His energy just makes you want to watch him whenever he's on stage and when he's teamed with Damian Buhagiar (Grease, Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys) as Pablo and Tom Hopcroft (The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, A Little Princess) as Joey, the audience gets to witness comedy gold at its finest. Their performance of Lady in the Long Black Dress can only be described as a masterclass in the art of both musical theatre and comedy timing.
Bad guy Curtis is played by Jeremy Secomb (Les Miserableś, Sweeney Todd, The Phantom of the Opera) and the audible boos from the audience when he takes his bow during the finale is testament to how good he is in the role.
This entire cast is unreal and there are also notable performances from Graham MacDuff (Anything Goes) as Monsignor O'Hara and Lori Haley Fox (Dirty Dancing) as Sister Mary Martin of Tours.
I cannot really put into words quite how sensational this production of Sister Act really is. It exceeded my expectations by miles and for me, this is the best show I have seen in a long time. I wish I could give it more than five stars! If you see one show this year, then it has to be this production of Sister Act. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
The show is in its final week of performances in London but fear not, our prayers have been answered and the show is going on tour! The epic tour opens on 20th September 2022 in Dublin and then tours all over the UK before concluding in Derry in January 2024!
There are some changes to the cast for the tour, notably that Deloris will be played by Sandra Marvin (Waitress). Marvin played the role when this production opened in Manchester ahead of its London run and received rave reviews.
For the full list of tour dates, to book tickets and check out cast bios head over to www.sisteractmusical.co.uk.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.