The Sister Act box office has experienced soaring sales over the last few weeks... everyone is trying to get their hands on the precious tickets to see Whoopi Goldberg back in the habit. In 1992 Whoopi made the original film ‘Sister Act’ famous with her hilarious portrayal of Deloris Van Cartier. She returns to the show as Mother Superior, with these twenty-three exclusive performances marking Whoopi’s West End debut.
Whoopi Goldberg is among the best known performers in the world, and one of the very few to have been awarded an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy. She has had success in every dramatic field and interestingly, for me, was the producer of the original Broadway production of Thoroughly Modern Millie, the musical in 2002. She is also one of the producers of Sister Act the musical, making her completely involved in the show.
Sister Act opened in London’s West End last May, and has already been nominated for many prestigious awards. The principal cast includes Ako Mitchell as Eddie, Katie Rowley Jones as Sister Mary Robert, Claire Greenway as Sister Mary Patrick, Jacqueline Clarke as Sister Mary Lazarus, Nicholas Colicos as Bones, Thomas Goodridge as TJ and Ivan De Freitas as Dinero. Before Whoopi graced the London Palladium it was the wonderful Sheila Hancock who took on the role of Mother Superior.
It was amazing enough just to have Whoopi on stage in front of me, but her performance excelled all my expectations. Her interaction with the audience was so relaxed for a celebrity of her calibre. She was the first cast member onstage and had to gesture charmingly to the screaming audience to quieten down so she could begin the show.
Patina Miller was thrilling as the young Deloris. She bounced around with infectious energy and naturally played the part of rebel to role model perfectly. Understudy Julian Cannonier took on the role of baddie Shank for the night, his acting was good, singing mediocre, and I couldn’t help thinking his time on stage was not as exciting as the glorious group of singing nuns. In my opinion the vocal star of the night was Ako Mitchell as the young, awkward Eddie, whose voice I can best describe as melted chocolate – perfectly controlled with a delicious tone. I also really enjoyed Katie Rowley Jones’ performance as Sister Mary Robert.
This is a feel-good musical. The story is satisfying and the music (by Alan Menken) is very enjoyable. It has nothing spectacular about it, like some of the other current West End shows, and yet seems to appeal to audiences unlike any other. When the curtain call came I looked round from my front row seat to see the whole, massive auditorium on their feet, quite a sight. What is it, I wondered, that makes Sister Act so popular? Perhaps it is the likeable characters, or the fact that it is an adaptation of an already hugely successful film. I came to the conclusion that Sister Act is a show the standard audience member can relate too; it is not a fairytale, nor a tragedy, nor even a great love story. It portrays a world that is not perfect and is enjoyable because it is believable.