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Sister Act review: Conviction for the devoted, but unlikely to convert apostates to musicals

Theatre: Glenn Slater’s lyrics and the book by Cheri and Bill Steinkiller provide a solid skeleton on which to hang characters’ conflicts

Sister Act

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin

“The Lord God loves us when we make music”, declares Mother Superior (Ruth Jones) of the Holy Order of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, as she tries to rouse enthusiasm for the tuneless choir of her failing church. God answers her prayers for the convent’s salvation by sending nightclub entertainer Deloris Van Cartier (Landi Oshinowo) to the cloister: the talented singer will hide there as part of a witness protection programme until the trial of her murderous mobster boyfriend.

In Sister Act: The Musical, based on the successful 1992 film, Alan Menken’s music offers a heavenly communion between opposing forces: the stringent morality of a life cut off from the world, and the effervescent joy of living within the complex mire of humanity. Hymnal songs like Here Within These Walls and I Haven’t Got a Prayer are juxtaposed with the disco and Motown rhythms of Raise Your Voice and Sunday Morning Fever. The fact that the latter style is favoured throughout the score shows just which side the moral pendulum gets stuck on, as Deloris takes it upon herself to show her newfound friends and Sisters the shimmering light of the real world.

Glenn Slater’s lyrics and the book by Cheri and Bill Steinkiller provide a solid skeleton on which to hang the characters’ conflicts and the uncomplicated thrust of the plot. However, the musical bucks against any sense of real threat, either to the nuns’ financial future or Deloris’s life. What we get instead are comedy villains in the strutting, mustachioed form of Curtis Jackson (Ian Gareth-Jones), TJ (Elliot Gooch), Pablo (Michalis Antoniou) and Joey (Callum Martin), while director Bill Buckhurst maximises the comic potential in clever casting choices that exploit the physical potential of the actors.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the performance of audience-favourite Alfie Souther as Steady Eddie, whose transformation in I Could Be That Guy is a marvel of stage trickery, aided by designer Morgan Large’s spectacular, sequinned costumes. Large is also responsible for the set, a series of halos with gorgeous cut-out patterns that, with Tim Mitchell’s lights, transform the stage into a seedy club and a gothic cathedral.


Sister Act is a solid piece production with an undeniably popular thrust. If it is unlikely to convert the apostate to the pleasures of musical theatre, it provides more than enough conviction for the devoted.

Runs until February 24th

Sara Keating

Sara Keating

Sara Keating, a contributor to The Irish Times, is an arts and features writer