From the moment Deloris dons the habit to the moment the curtain falls, it’s non-stop joyous entertainment, with just the right amount of tears to boot.
The show tells the story of wannabe club singer Deloris Van Cartier, who is in a relationship with a married club owner in order to attempt to get her career going. He’s a bad sort, and when she witnesses him committing a murder, she is obliged to go into hiding until he can be brought to trial. Since she has no particular friends or family, the police officer responsible for her hides her in a nunnery, where she shakes up old traditions and teaches the nuns to sing.
The first 20 minutes or so of the show are actually pretty flat. There’s a lot of not-particularly-engaging plot, and a lot of stage time given to some paper thin baddies. But then Deloris enters the nunnery, and the whole show comes to life. The huge chorus of nuns, each with their own distinct personalities, are endlessly entertaining, and bring so much good humour to the stage. From the moment Deloris dons the habit to the moment the curtain falls, it’s non-stop joyous entertainment, with just the right amount of tears to boot.
All three of the leads are very strong. Karen Mann’s Mother Superior (the true antagonist of the show) is wonderfully three dimensional. She makes mistakes with every decision she makes, but we can’t help liking her anyway. She can be really horrible, and genuinely funny, but she always retains our compassion. Sarah Goggin’s Sister Mary Robert is sweet and gawkish, and brings most of the happy-tears to the show. Alexandra Burke is excellent in the lead role. She is genuinely funny (essential to the part), brings pathos when it’s needed, and has a wonderful voice. It’s powerful, obviously, but also surprisingly versatile.
A minor gripe is the quality of the speakers in the King’s Theatre. I find if I’m sitting off on an angle from the stage, rather than directly in front of it, the sound quality is so bad that I can’t pick out the lyrics to chorus numbers (and some solos), or differentiate all the different musical instruments properly. In a show that has more than half the cast playing instruments live on stage (which incidentally is a particularly charming decision), it’s a real shame not to be able to hear it properly.
Still, apart from a few minor niggles, this is a solid production of a great show that is guaranteed to leave you smiling.