Singing, dancing nuns, 70s gangsters and a giant, illuminated staircase — Sister Act certainly made its mark on the Grand Theatre this week.
The show’s music, derived from the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, had no trouble raising the roof in Leeds — but its storytelling could have used a little divine inspiration.
I couldn’t fault the vocal talent — Alexandra Burke delivered once more after an astonishing turn in the Bodyguard earlier this year.
But you can’t force funny. I’ve been trying to figure out if it was bad writing, or bad acting, or both. Burke is vocally stunning, but she’s not a comedian, and sadly it made a lot of the dialogue fall flat.
The pacing of the first half seemed clunky, with some utterly bizarre moments — When I Find My Baby, a song that began innocently enough but descended into disturbing lyrics about disembowelling a woman — and the decision to create a troupe of dancing hobos for the love interest’s main number.
The first performance of Deloris with the nuns did redeem the first half, however — even if the choir did go from tone-deaf to heavenly with no real explanation.
The choir of nuns, lead by an endlessly energetic Burke, saved the poor plotting with truly spectacular performances.
Karen Mann’s Mother Superior got the most laughs, particularly during Haven’t Got A Prayer, and Lady in the Long Black Dress, crooned with gusto by TJ (Sandy Grigelis), Pablo (Ricky Rojas) and Joey (Samuel Morgan-Grahame), was outrageously funny.
But on the whole, Sister Act just couldn’t capture the comedy of its source material. When the music is good, it’s joyous — but many of the songs are instantly forgettable.
Again, I have to praise Burke for her voice — musical theatre does suit her and her high notes are still awe-inspiring.
But sadly it wasn’t enough to save the show.
Sister Act is at Leeds Grand Theatre until August 27.