The sign of a great show is that you leave half-stepping to the closing routine whilst trying desperately to remember the lyrics of the catchiest song. When I went to Wicked I didn’t stop humming ‘Popular’ for about a week, but Sister Act had me feeling less than excited. I left the show raving about the amazing production values; the interchangeable scenery, the beautifully bewildering set display, (which converted the stage into a nunnery, brothel and church scene), and the way it took place without a whisper of machinery.
But no humming was involved at all.
But why was this? I loved the film, which was the reason I decide to go, and the fact that Whoopi Goldberg, star of the original, had a hand in the production seemed like a good sign. Problem was that the musical didn’t contain any of the tunes I loved so much, so rather than a nostalgic trip back into my childhood, I was greeted with a re-jigged storyline with a completely new soundtrack. Sure,the same old nun undercover story still applied, as showgirl Deloris van Cartier witnessed a brutal crime and had to go hide in a nunnery while the case was brought to trial. Along the way she takes command of the church choir and brings the nuns kicking and screaming into the new century with scenes of ‘Praising the Lord’ set in pubs, with a little bit of synchronized dancing just for kicks. However what was executed so flawlessly on celluloid didn’t manage to repeat itself on stage,
In the film the transition from lounge singer to choirmaster is quite natural, and whilst you expect it to be more forced in a stage production, the premise that the nuns are tone death is rather ruined by the fact that they’re yodelling away harmonically from the beginning.
To keep the story flowing every member gets the chance to solo and though the addition of gangsters songs provide slight entertainment, the whole thing feels slightly forced. The songs I knew and loved such as ‘Follow Him’ (see YouTube clip below) are nowhere to be seen, and instead we’re treated to repeated renditions of ‘take me to heaven’ a tune that works equally as well in a nightclub as in a church. Well, that’s the idea anyway. As the key song, it’s bland, banal and uninspiring- and constant repetition doesn’t help. I know it must have been frustrating to not get rights to the original songs, but surely they could have chosen something slightly more catchy?
The star, Patina Miller is a joy to behold, buzzing around like an angry hornet, all big hair and purple boots, but her enthusiasm can’t save the rather dreary show. But did I mention the sets? Unbelievable! Now that’s what I call production values…
Till 13 February 2010 at the Palladium Theatre, London.