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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Joseph Timan

Review: Sister Act is a sparkling spectacle at the Palace Theatre

A stunning set, outstanding outfits and versatile vocals. The audience anticipates an evening of family-friendly fun – and the actors dutifully deliver.

But the crowd - a couple dressed as nuns themselves - are prepared for this stage production of Sister Act at the Palace Theatre to differ dramatically from the film. While still a sparkling spectacle, it is not the sing-along that some might expect.

Although the story is similar, the songs in this 'divine musical comedy' are not the same. Unlike the 1992 comedy classic, which features familiar songs converted for a catholic choir, this show has an original score.

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The humour differs too, with a comedic style that is more slapstick than its on-screen namesake. Thankfully, Jennifer Saunders, who plays the cynical Mother Superior, brings balance to the over-the-top American accents with her brilliantly British sarcasm.

The Absolutely Fabulous star stands out from the cast which is filled with familiar faces, some with ludicrous lungs on them. Some songs seem to be a struggle for Saunders - or perhaps she's just staying in character - but she pulls it off impressively.

Oldham's own Clive Rowe - best known to those of a certain generation as Duke from Tracey Beaker - is equally excellent. Perfectly cast as a goofy police officer, he is unexpectedly ambitious when singing solo, showing off a set of pipes rarely exhibited in his role as the eccentric chef in the BBC children's TV series.

Clive Rowe is among the Sister Act cast (Manuel Harlan)

And Sandra Marvin, who plays Deloris Van Cartier, has the vocal range required for her character to carry the choir. Playing Sister Mary Lazarus, Lesley Joseph - best known for her role in sitcom Birds of a Feather - is also a crowd-pleaser with her 'funky bass' and occasional rapping.

The set is suitably Gothic, with church windows doubling up as disco lights for the less Latin numbers. Once the choir finds the right key, the crowd is quick to show its appreciation.

Everyone is on their feet for the finale in which the cast is covered in sequins from head to toe. At points, the humour seems outdated - such as when the Spanish-speaking side character's sole contribution is to be comically incomprehensible - and at others, it is adequately adapted to the 21st century.

Sister Act cast at the Palace Theatre Manchester (Manuel Harlan)

But what's clear is that this theatrical production does its own thing. It may share a similar plot to the film and have characters whose names mirror those in the movie, but the similarities do not stretch much further.

This 'divine musical comedy' is different – and the audience should expect that to avoid disappointment. Nonetheless, the crowd, it seems, did not care.

Keen to show their enthusiasm throughout, many in the audience applauded each song with contagious energy. And some did not wait for the finale to get up on their feet.

Fans of musical theatre will love this. Fans of the film may not.

Read more of today's top stories here.


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