With Sister Act closing at the end of October, it only made sense that I should see it before it departs from the London Palladium. Furthermore it was a show that neither myself or friend Louis had seen before. Having seen most of the shows in the West End it was definitely time for something fresh and new. The show had come with some high recommendations, though with it closing after just about a year maybe a little longer (i think), I was concerned that this in part reflected a poor audience response to the show. So I guess I went in with an open mind and no specific expectations which is sometimes a good thing. After all it was my high expectations of Wicked the musical which left me disappointed when it failed to reach the benchmark I had set.
I will at this point confess I have not even seen the film Sister Act, though I knew the rough plot. The show opens at a seedy night club where Patina Miller who stars in the lead role of Deloris Van Cartier is performing a cabaret routine on her birthday. It is after her set when looking for her boyfriend that she witnesses him commit a horrific murder which forces her on the run. Well I say horrific murder because it sounds good - truthfully it was more of a low key, cheesily acted murder. After reporting the crime to the police officer (who happens to be a geek who had a thing for Deloris in their school days) she is stowed away in a convent, among a group or disciplined nuns with an inability to sing. Needless to say Patina Miller's character saves the day, by teaching the nuns to sing in a completely new genre which changes all of their lives and saves the church they are associated with.
The show is meant to be cheesy - the fight scenes, the storyline - it is premium extra mature cheddar cheese at its finest. But that's what a show like this is meant to be, its a feel good musical that is there to give you a lift when you need it. With catchy sing along tunes Such as "Fabulous Baby" it is inevitable that you are going to leave singing the songs all the way home. Or in my case go away attempting to sing all the way home... trust me, you really don't want to hear me sing! No really... I am awful, I make even the worst singers on Britain's Got Talent look good!
I have to be honest whilst Patina Miller was on top form, I didn't think much of Simon Webbe in the role of "Shank" - the bad guy. I don't know what it is about West End productions that see the need to get washed up pop stars into their shows. Most of the time these pop stars don't have formal vocal training (lets be honest you don't need in to lip sync on stage!). The challenges of singing every night is often too much and the vocal strain becomes evident. Further more they are just what I said - wash ups. They are no longer stars... so why not look to the drama schools for some budding fresh new talent? With Sheila Hancock and Patina Miller among the cast, its not as though the production needs another "big" name!
So acting wise - there is nothing to be astounded by, but then again I don't think this show was ever meant to be taken seriously. I do however think the directors and creators of the show have mis-judged their target audience. In my opinion the show was written with the intent to be a family show, however the structure and storyline is a little confusing at times, leaving the younger audience at a loss. I may be wrong - but I feel this may be a partial reason for the shows demise in the West End. It would have been better targeted to a teen and young adult audience in my mind. Further more (and this is a criticism of many shows), there is not enough done to draw people in from outside of London. Posters at railway stations are not enough!!! You need to proactively reach out to your target audience and reel them in... I simply think that Sister Act has not done this at all. Though I think next month the door numbers will see a lift as "Whoppi Goldberg" from the original 1992 film will join the cast for a short run as Mother Superior.
In all - a fun show. Its a shame that it is closing, but in turn that will make way for a new show. I believe that will be "The Wizard of Oz" in the new year. I would recommend people see it before it closes at the end of October, as it is a feel good show. You walk away happy, relaxed and whilst you may not plan to see it a second time around, you wont have regretted your decision to go see it in the first place.