Review: Sister Act, Edinburgh Playhouse

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*****

Anyone who’s been in the queue for the Sistine Chapel on a free entry Sunday after Mass will know that you don’t mess with a nun. Ever. They don’t so much queue jump as use the power of the Lord to propel themselves through the bountiful hoards of sinners like Jonah Lomu through the opposition’s defence line.

So why Sister Act’s nuns take quite so long to get their feisty on will remain a perpetual mystery.

But at least they do, and in a far more entertaining and touching way than the film of the same name. Based on the film’s plot but with a greater focus on the themes of sisterhood and self-discovery, Sister Act the Musical is a cheery, feel-good romp infused with engaging characters and sharp lyrics.

Differing from the film in many key areas, the musical features a greater number of songs that develop several plot points further and provides a small deviation from the movie ending.

A live orchestra and choir music does nothing but enhance the original experience and gospel-inspired energy. The choir’s transformation from dreadful to dreamy received one of the largest rounds of applause of the night.

Director Jerry Zaks and choreographer Anthony van Laast share a wonderful eye for Motown pastiche and simple, effective crowd-pleasing visual tricks. Eddie Baruwa’s, playing Eddie Souther, quick-change tricks in I Could Be That Guy an unexpected delight.

While Cynthia Erivo’s wayward heroine Dolores Van Cartier is charming and likeable, her character development is limited to allow for other characters to experience their own epiphanies. It works surprisingly well and provides the production with a gentle, audience-engrossing pace.

Denise Black as Mother Superior basks in one-liners and the chance to give her side of the story via prayers.

Cavin Cornwall’s ruthless villain Curtis Jackson is delicious as he simultaneously delivers deadly lyrics and smooth soulful moves, his three henchmen working out how to infiltrate the nunnery a wonderful comic foil to his cool groove.

This is certainly the show to celebrate the back of Hallowee’n and the beginning of All Saints Day with. And if you don’t believe that a bunch of Catholic ladies would get up to such mischief, well, you might just want to catch The Borgias on TV, or drop by the Sistine Chapel on the last Sunday of the month.

Runs until November 12