Review: Sister Act, Sunderland Empire, until November 26

A scene from Sister Act @ Opera House, Manchester.'(Taken 28-09-11)'�Tristram Kenton 09/11'(3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550  Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com
A scene from Sister Act @ Opera House, Manchester.'(Taken 28-09-11)'�Tristram Kenton 09/11'(3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com
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HOLY moly – this is one of the best shows I’ve seen in months.

Packed full of energy, pzazz and more sequins than you can shake a stick at, this new musical far exceeded my expectations.

At the helm is Cynthia Erivo as disco diva-turned-nun-on-the-run Deloris Van Cartier, a role that’s become synonymous with Whoopi Goldberg who played the part in the 1992 film.

It’s a tough act to follow but, wow, does Cynthia make the character her own, bringing a sexier, Beyonce-esque edge to the leading role.

And the voice! Hers is one of the best I’ve ever heard live. Her stunning vocals made the X Factor hopefuls look like a school talent show and is worth the ticket price alone.

Her acting too is spot on as the soul sister who shakes up the sisters of a Philadelphia convent.

It’s joy to watch as she transforms the choir of nuns into a shimmying celebration of the 70s – I wish the nuns at my school were more like that!

Instead of using tracks from the film, music was specifically written for the musical and they are instant toe-tappers which capture perfectly the essence of the Philadelphia Sound.

The nuns soon get in the habit of Deloris’ style of singing with tunes Take Me to Heaven and Sunday Morning Fever.

Though this is essentially a musical about sisters doing it for themselves, the male cast is also superb. In particular, Edward Baruwa as Eddie Souther.

He’s desperate for Deloris to desire him and his solo track, I Could Be That Guy, is a highlight of the show.

It’s scenes like this – touching, funny, slick and massively entertaining – which made me enjoy the musical more than the film. Those around me felt the same as they shook their booty for a well-deserved standing ovation.