Sister Act: Musical comedy
in need of a little divine intervention

“God has answered your prayers. You just don’t like the answer”

Monsignor O’Hara [to Mother Superior]


The Company in Sister Act (Phto: Manuel Harlan)

Like many theatrical offerings this year, the revival of the 2009 Sister Act musical has been a while coming. Two years, to be precise. Originally scheduled for July 2020 with Whoopi Goldberg reworking her film role as nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier, covid delays means that we now get the show in 2022 but with Beverley Knight taking on Whoopi’s role and top billing credits subtly shifting from Deloris to Mother Superior, played by Jennifer Saunders.

Looking at the production now, it’s hard to see what Whoopi, now in her early 60’s, would have bought to the role, aside from her star status. The musical is loosely based on the 1992 film of the same name. A bunch of narrative shifts have been taken to support a theatrical staging and, also, to help shift the narrative from spoken word to songs. Ostensibly it’s the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a less than successful nightclub singer who’s on the run from her mobster boyfriend after seeing him commit a murder. The local police have decided that, to keep her safe until she can testify against her boyfriend, is to hide her in a local convent. And so starts a classic fish-out-of-water comedy.

Beverley Knight as Deloris van Cartier and Jennifer Saunders as Mother Superior (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

The film was a huge success based significantly on a powerhouse of comedic perfromances, most notably from Whoopi; a simple, yet effective script; and the adaption of some classic 1960’s soul tunes, most notably the reworking of Mary Wells’ “My Guy” to “My God”.

Unfortunately, much of what makes the film so enjoyable is in short supply here.

The heart and soul of the show are Jennifer Saunders and Beverley Knight, for very different reasons. Saunders’ experience in comedy shines supremely. Her phrasing, timing and physicality are a joy to watch, and she manages to bring laughs to the most flaccid of jokes. Knight’s musicality is unreproachable, and she certainly gives the mixed blessing of a score its best possible outing. Her acting is confident and exuberant, however, alongside Saunders, her comedy chops needs some refinement.

The rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Clive Rowe and Lizzie Bea, as police officer Eddie Southern and Sister Mary Robert, respectively, are standout. However, Leslie Joseph, as Sister Mary Lazarus is woefully used. A strong pedigree in theatre and comedy, she’s basically given some cheesy one-liners and left to sexually gyrate her hips in a lazy attempt at comedy.

Lesley Joseph as SIster Mary Lazarus (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

This leads to the script, which a is a very pale imitation to the sharp and tightly crafted film original. The book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, with additional material from Douglas Carter Beane, replaces the nuanced and sarcastic interplay between the characters with broad, often cheesy, slapstick. If your idea of comedy is a nun rapping whilst patting her genitals and gyrating her hips, or a priest donning Elton John style sunglasses and making hand gestures like an 18-year old DJ, then this could be the show for you.

Fortunately, such displays are not the norm here, but there’s enough cheesy drivel dotted throughout to significantly distract from the funny and well performed core of the show.

The show is anchored in a completely original score by Disney genius Alan Menken (with lyrics by Glen Slater). It’s a mixed bag of crowd-pleasing anthems, comedy songs and melancholic ballads that, on reflection, is more ‘meh’ than ‘wow’. Whilst the bigger tunes will get the crowd on their feet and cheering, I think you’d be hard pushed to hum them by the time you get your train home.

Clive Rowe as Eddie Souther (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

All this said, my biggest gripe, however, is the venue. The Apollo is more famous as a venue to see live music than theatre. It’s cavernous both onstage and off. Despite some very clever staging, the designers were able to reduce the active stage area by around 50%, but still the cast seemed lost in the space. And the size of the auditorium meant that any intimacy between audience and actor and subtly of performance were completely lost beyond the first few rows.

Overall, there’s a lot going on in Sister Act and, in the main, it’s very entertaining. Whilst the score is not as immediate as, say Hairspray, or it’s comedy as tight as The Producers, it’s a decent evening of entertainment…. And if you can nab a seat towards the front, you’ll probably get more out of the show than most.

The Company (Photo; Manuel Harlan)

Musical Numbers

Act One

Take Me To Heaven

Fabulous, baby!

Here Within These Walls

How I Got The Calling

When I Find My Baby

Do The Sacred Mass

I Could Be That Guy

Raise Your Voice

Take Me To Heaven (Reprise)

Act Two

Sunday Morning Fever

Lady In The Long Black

Bless Our Show

Here Within These Walls (Reprise)

The Life I Never Led

Fabulous, Baby! (Reprise)

Sister Act

When I Find My Baby (Reprise)

The Life I Never Led (Reprise)

Sister Act (Reprise)

Spread The Love Around Mary

Production Notes

Sister Act

Music by Alan Menken

Lyrics by Glenn Slater

Book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner

Additional Book Material by Douglas Carter Beane

Directed by Bill Buckhurst



Clive Rowe

Jennifer Saunders

Beverley Knight

Lizzie Bea

Keala Settle

Lesley Joseph

Sandra Marvin 

Jeremy Secomb

Graham MacDuff


Lori Haley Fox

Anne Smith

Bleu Woodward

Bradley Judge

Caroline Bateson

Catherine Millsom

Damian Buhagiar

Emma Ralston

Tricia Deighton

Michael Ward

Tom Hopcroft

Marina Tavolieri

Tanya Edwards

Gabrielle Davina Smith

Castell Parker

Tanisha Butterfield

Jermaine Woods


Director: Bill Buckhurst

Choreographer: Alistair David

Designer: Morgan Large

Musical Supervisor: Stephen Brooker

Lighting Designer:  Tim Mitchell

Sound Designer: Tom Marshall

Musical Director: JaeAlexander


Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval

Booking until 28th August 2022



Eventim Apollo

45 Queen Caroline Street


W6 9QH


Tube: Hammersmith

Reviewed by Sonny Waheed

at the Eventim Apollo

on 27th May 2022

The Company (Photo: Manuel Harlan)