Reviews Roundup: Sister Act The Musical 3.4★

Dominion Theatre

Sister Act The Musical. Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

A gangster’s moll sees a crime and goes into a witness protection in a nunnery where she teaches the nun choir to sing, and generally enjoy life a little more. The production has toured and played the Eventim Apollo in 2022 which is where it was reviewed by the London-based critics.  Beverley Knight returns in what we inevitably think of as the Whoopi Goldberg role until 8 June 2024 when she is succeeded by Alexandra Burke. This roundup will be revised after the official opening night of the latest run. The critics previously loved Beverley Knight’s singing, although some had reservations about her skill as a comic actor. Other well-liked members of the previous cast return for the current run including Clive Rowe and Lesley Joseph. Ruth Jones is a newcomer as the Mother Superior.

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls and therefore may not be accessible]
Adam Bloodworth in CityAM (5) awarded the first 5 star review, calling it ‘simple, straightforward fun channelled through a production that is so precision-tooled that every moment becomes either a huge laugh or a visual spectacular.’
In her review of the opening night of the current run, Marianka Swain in The Telegraph (4) said ‘the Dominion Theatre is a perfect fit for Bill Buckhurst’s warm hug of a production.’ She picked out newcomer Ruth Jones playing the Mother Superior as ‘another reason to make a bee-line for Sister Act tickets.’ She concluded: ‘Watching the sisters in full flow, boogieing away in rainbow-sequinned habits, is sheer theatrical bliss.’
Franco Milazzo st Broadway World (4) also welcomes Ruth Jones: ‘What the Gavin and Stacey star lacks in lung power, she more than makes up for in sheer charisma.’ He also pays tribute to ‘a sterling cast, Menken and Slater’s songs and Morgan Large’s ingenious set.’
The earlier reviews were generally appreciative of the feel-good nature of the musical without being carried away by it. There were some notable exceptions. ‘This revival is heavenly’ said Nicole Vassell in The Independent (5★).  ‘Alan Menken and Glenn Slater’s uplifting score is excellent,’ she wrote, and concluded: ‘the show’s an irresistibly great time.’ Neil Norman writing in The Express (4★) stated: ‘It puts a smile on your face that refuses to leave.’ About Beverley Knight, he said: ‘Not only is that voice goosebumpingly glorious, she has … impressive comedy chops.’ He also liked ‘Morgan Large’s simple but effective stained glass set design.’  Alex Wood for Whats On Stage (4★) agreed about Large’s ‘glittery menagerie of set pieces.’ He had mixed feelings about the songs: ‘“Fabulous, Baby!”, “Take Me to Heaven” and “Raise Your Voice” are all veritable ear-worms’ but ‘For every “Raise Your Voice” there’s a much more forgettable number.’ However, he was bowled over by ‘a deluge of sugar-rush sentimentality and spirited vim’ and concluded: ‘The revival lands squarely in the “feel-good and proud of it” camp.’
Andrzej Lukowski’s reaction in Time Out (3★) was more typical: While praising Beverley Knight – ‘she is an extraordinary singer’, he damned the first half with faint praise – ‘It’s a sturdy enough comic romp ‘- and damned the second half with no praise- ‘bloated and ponderous.’ It’s ‘an okay musical, he concluded.  Natasha Tripney in The Stage (3★) took an opposite view of the musical’s progression: ‘Bill Buckhurst’s production takes a while warming up in the first half…but the pacing and energy levels improve significantly in the second half.’ She agreed about Beverley Knight, saying ‘She brings vocal heft and requisite presence to the role.’
Ryan Gilbey in The Guardian (3★) described Beverley Knight as ‘full-throated, comically twitchy’ but dismissed the plot, saying it ‘could be scratched on a sacramental wafer’. While he found  ‘inspiration flags’, he conceded ‘good humour sees it through.’ The Standard‘s Nick Curtis (3★) enjoyed Beverley Knight’s ‘storming voice and personality’, but like most of the others thought ‘The plot is reduced to a skeletal framework on which to hang musical or comic set pieces’. He wasn’t too keen on Alan Menken’s score either, describing it as ‘only occasionally soulful and never funky’.
Clive Davis writing in The Times (3★) admitted ‘There are some inspired hot gospel belters’. Otherwise he was unimpressed: ‘The script, though, slips into automatic pilot after an engaging first act’, and ‘Morgan Large’s set design is a little basic’. The Telegraph‘s Dominic Cavendish (3★) decided: ‘The joy is preordained but it’s joy all the same.’

Average critic rating (out of 5) 3.4★

Value rating  38 (Value rating is the Average critic rating divided by the most common Stalls/Circle ticket price. In theory this means the higher the score the better value but, because of price variations, a West End show could be excellent value if it scores above 30 while an off-West End show may need to score above 60. This rating is based on opening night prices- theatres may raise or lower prices during the run.)

Sister Act The Musical can be seen at the Dominion Theatre London until 31 August 2024. Buy tickets directly from the theatre here

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