SWINGING nuns are not what you’d expect to find on the stage but then this is Sister Act and it’s truly a case of anything goes at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal (until Saturday, March 31).
The story is familiar to anyone who has seen the film, as Philadelphia nightclub singer Deloris Van Carlier witnesses her crime boss boyfriend commit a murder.
She is put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be found – a convent. This establishment is on its last legs and it’s not helped by the fact that the nuns who form the choir can’t sing.
But Deloris – now Sister Mary Clarence – has got rhythm from countless nightclub gigs and she transforms the choir into the hottest act in town.
At the same time, she forms a lasting bond with her newfound friends and the gang that’s chasing her finds itself up against an unstoppable team of soulful sisters.
So how does the show transfer from screen to stage and how does anybody fill the iconic Whoopi Goldberg’s shoes? The answer is that it is simply a triumph, a fun-packed, foot-stompin’ musical that engages from the start.
It’s helped by superb casting and newcomer Cynthia Erivo excels as Deloris with admirable help from the vastly experienced Denise Black as the dry and bemused Mother Superior and Michael Starke as Monsignor O’Hara.
There is a strong supporting cast, in particular Cavin Cornwall as Curtis Jackson, the hoodlum, along with his trio of hapless gangsters, and Edward Baruva as the police officer who aims to catch them and also make Deloris his love interest.
The all-new score, with its Philadelphia disco-vibe, may be unfamiliar but the music is tailor-made and there are standouts as Deloris lets us see the showgirl behind the nun’s habit.
Aside from Deloris and the nuns’ chorus, there are some stunning moments: Here Within These Walls (Mother Superior and Deloris), When I Find My Baby (Curtis and his henchmen), The Life I Never Led (Julie Atherton as Sister Mary Robert) and the title song.
Fun with nuns, indeed.