Review of 'Sister Act'


There is a story here. Back in October 2019 we were told that Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Saunders would be staring in a special revival of the “Sister Act” musical (which was based on the highly popular film). We jumped at the chance and immediately booked our tickets for August 2020. Of course, come 2020 and the world as we know it changed with the pandemic disrupting everything…including this show. The performance was pushed back to August 2021. In February 2021 we were told that due to on-going concerns about the pandemic procedures they had to push the performance back again, now to August 2022 but at the same time we were told that Whoopi Goldberg, frankly the main reason we had booked tickets in the first place, would not be appearing “…this necessary change of dates now means that Whoopi Goldberg will no longer be able to appearing the role of Deloris Van Cartier”.


So, now we are in possession of two rather expensive tickets (£104 each, for a 10-rows-from-the-back seat in the balcony) to a show in which the main person we wanted to see would not be present. Disappointed is not the word but, in for a penny, we rejected the offer of a gift card and resolved to go anyway. We were slightly encouraged when it was revealed that the lead would be played by the amazing singer Beverley Knight. So, how did it go?

We had tickets for a matinee and due to an issue with the multiple re-issuing of tickets there was a bit of confusion at the door with our having to talk to a manager before being allowed in. Thirty minutes before the show the lobby was jammed with people and the queue for each of the two main-level bars was huge. With the heat outside we queued anyway, annoyed that our one litre of water was thrown away by security. Our seats were on the balcony meaning we had to fight through the crowds (no wonder the concerns during post-COVID!) to find our way to our seats which were also not correctly labelled (with a section number). The seats were a very long way away from the stage but we were able to see fairly well throughout the performance. Indeed, the performance is what matters.

Mother Superior (Jennifer Saunders) declares that their inner-city convent is in need (Prologue) before lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier (Beverley Knight) witnesses her gangster boyfriend Curtis Jackson (Jeremy Secomb) kill a man and flees to the police for her life. Befriended by policeman Eddie Souther (Clive Rowe) Deloris is taken to Mother Superior who is asked to take her in. As the flamboyant and high-living Deloris comes to terms with the life of a nun she finds her talents as a singer coming in handy in turning the rather musically-challenged choir of nuns into a musical sensation. The sedate Sunday services become full of musical vitality and the lives of the nuns are turned around but this attracts a bit too much attention…

There are lots of problems with this musical such as the lack of any sort of build up of the choir from horrible to amazing nor is there any real engagement between Deloris and the members of the choir with the focus being more on numerous musical numbers instead, leaving the important aspect of how the characters are personally effected wanting and the fun of the big reveal at the end of the film sadly near to the middle of the stage show. The music is reasonable and quite uplifting but not entirely memorable.

I read a review that Knight was a bit lacking in acting talent which, being a singer is not entirely surprising, but I did not see that here, perhaps she has had some time to get into the grove? What we saw on the stage was a fun and exuberant Deloris that, while not Whoopie, was certainly not an amateur. Yes, the performance was mightily cliched and extremely OTT it was not that bad. Indeed, most of the performances were extraordinarily OTT and not true to the fairly gritty reality of the original film. Saunders was delightful as Mother Superior being stern when she had to but always giving a sense of not really taking anything too seriously (at one point quipping to Knight that she was “pitchy”). Clive Rowe as the policeman put in an incredible performance with far more to the character than we can recall from the film, appearing far more often in this production. Rowe has an incredibly compelling personality with another OTT performance.

All in all, it was Ok for a west end production, however, this is not how it was billed. This was supposed to be a big revival staring the biggest Sister Act star from the film (let's face it the film revolves around this iconic comedian), it was not that and while Knight did an admirable job (she certainly has a much nicer voice that Whoopie!) it was not Whoopie. We paid for the big name but instead it was more of a standard west end revival. Perhaps the huge number of people in an inadequately air conditioned building and our seats being next to the attic slightly left us a bit annoyed as well…

It was not too bad but most definitely overpriced and a big disappointment without Whoopie.

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2022-08-14

Eventim Apollo

Location: London (England)

Address: 45 Queen Caroline Street London, England W6 9QH

Public Transport: TUBE Hammersmith

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8563 3800


Formerly simply the “Hammersmith Apollo” this iconic venue may be uncomfortable and showing it's age but it still has the air of majesty and history about it as it has been largely untouched since the days of the Beatles playing here. The wide (and high) auditorium has no air conditioning with a large stalls area (standing at back) and a large single balcony (circle). The main foyer has four, count them, four bar areas (and a souvenir kiosk).