Sister Act reviews – London Palladium ★★★

A summary of reviews for Sister Act at the London Palladium

  • Charles Spencer – The Telegraph:4/5
  • Fiona Mountford – Evening Standard:4/5
  • Michael Coveney – The Independent:3/5
  • Maxie Szalwinska – The Sunday Times:3/5
  • Benedict Nightingale – The Times: 3/5
  • Michael Billington – The Guardian: 2/5
  • Quentin Letts – Daily Mail: 2/5

Reviews were mixed for major new musical Sister Act at the London Palladium when it opened last week. Some of the big hitters such as Charles Spencer of the Telegraph and Fiona Mountford of the Evening Standard loved the show, whilst others were more reserved.

Based on the hit 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, who is an exec producer on the new stage show, the musical premiered at the Palladium with a performer dressed as a nun abseiling down the side of the theatre and a celebrity filled audience, including Goldberg.

The musical stars West End newcomer Patina Miller as cabaret singer Delores and Sheila Hancock as Mother Superior.

Review of the reviews – Opening Thoughts

OB: “This summer’s feelgood night out in London”

GU: “What we have here is a show that feels less like a personally driven work of art than a commercial exploitation of an existing franchise”

TE: “Sister Act proves more enjoyable on stage than it did on film… Frankly, what’s not to like, especially when you’ve got a chorus line of jiving nuns singing their hearts out ecstatically?”

VA: “Shamelessly and irresistibly entertaining”

DM: “Call me a miserable old monk, but I hated Sister Act”

ES: “Whether or not divine intervention is involved, it’s a wimple-wibbling, habit-forming triumph”

IN: “There’s no such thing as restraint anywhere in Peter Schneider’s production”

ST: “It’s safe to say the stage show trumps the film – at least for aficionados of serious kitsch”

TI: “A rather sweet, sentimental film has been hyped up, coarsened, given… the big, brash Broadway treatment”

The Story / Book

OB: “It’s not the most original story in the world”

GU: “In order to pad out a slight story, every key member of the cast also has to be given a number. As a result, the plot grinds to a halt…”

TE: “The book, by Cheers writers Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, is strong, funny and touching”

DM: “I know I may be taking it too seriously, but I found myself recoiling sharply from this story’s saccharine values and its bullying gaiety”

Patina Miller

OB: “[Her] sheer sexy singing vim leaves the film’s star, Whoopi Goldberg, looking retrospectively miscast”

GU: “Patina Miller invests Deloris with a wealth of raucous energy and just about convinces in her conversion from fame-seeking individualist to member of the singing sorority”

TE: “The show’s real find… she has all the comic vitality of Whoopi Goldberg in the film, but she’s sexier and sings up a storm”

VA: “Sassier, snappier and younger… Miller’s powerhouse vocals, pitched somewhere between Gloria Gaynor and Whitney Houston, and her thrillingly fast vibrato act as the show’s engine”

DM: “After an off-key start, shows herself to have a cheesy presence and a Merlin engine of a voice”

ES: “There can be no disputing the evening’s main draw: 24-year-old Miller… her magnificent voice is rich, soaring and, crucially, unflagging. She might have been unknown last night, but today all that will have changed”

IN: “This unknown 24-year-old from South Carolina is the real deal, a genuine new star, oozing confidence and sex appeal like it was going out of fashion”

ST: “Less brash than Goldberg, but pretty fabulous nonetheless”

TI:  “Patina Miller, is the show’s great plus”

Sheila Hancock

OB: “Sheila Hancock and Claire Greenway, as the Mother Superior and the tubby ingenue nun, offer sidespreads of delight and razor-sharp timing”

GU: “Lends the show some needed gravitas”

TE: “A warmer but no less winning performance”

VA:  “One of the U.K.’s best-loved actors, does droll like no one else”

DM: “On fine form”

ES: “Delightfully droll”

The Music

OB: “Don’t expect the Motown hits of the film; we have a set of new disco inventions, which mostly work”

GU: “Alan Menken’s music admittedly has a pounding effectiveness”

TE: “The disco-inspired score… is a cracker”

VA: “Alan Menken’s new score (aside from the ballads) says goodbye Motown, hello disco…  But the problem with pastiche is that it irons out a composer’s individual voice”

ES: “Attractive, gospel-inflected score”

IN: “There’s nothing really refreshingly new here even if you might feel like brushing down your John Travolta poses when you get home”

ST: “Is at its best when tipping its hat to 1970s tunes”

TI: “There’s less deft comedy, but much more music, most of it indebted to the 1970s, where the action is now set. That lets Alan Menken, the composer, have a lot of catchy fun with period rock and disco”

Staging & Direction

OB: “What transforms this… are the sets (Klara Zieglerova), which ravish the eye and dance with glee”

GU: “Everything is coarsely overstated”

TE: “Pacy direction by former Disney executive Peter Schneider”

VA: “Peter Schneider’s extremely well-cast production is enshrined in sets that create little atmosphere”

TI: “The film’s point was that Deloris liberates the nuns’ voices while they liberate her spirit… But there’s no gentle piety here. If Deloris liberates the sisters, it’s for roles in A Chorus Line”


OB: The Observer Sister Act review by Euan Ferguson

TI: The Times Sister Act review by Benedict Nightingale

ST: The Sunday Times Sister Act review by Maxie Szalwinska

IN: The Independent  Sister Act review by Michael Coveney

ES: Evening Standard Sister Act review by Fiona Mountford

DM: Daily Mail Sister Act review by Quentin Letts

VA: Variety Sister Act review by David Benedict

GU: The Guardian Sister Act review by Michael Billington

TE: The Telegraph Sister Act Review by Charles Spencer

Average Critics Rating

The Evening Standard

"Take it away, sisters"

"There can be no disputing the evening's main draw: 24-year-old Miller... her magnificent voice is rich, soaring and, crucially, unflagging. She might have been unknown last night, but today all that will have changed"

Fiona Mountford, The Evening Standard
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The Independent

"It's show time, not musical theatre magic"

"There's nothing really refreshingly new here even if you might feel like brushing down your John Travolta poses when you get home"

Michael Coveney, The Independent
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The Sunday Times

"With its lashings of glitter, such is its assault on reticence (and our retinas), the show occasionally has you longing for a spell of calm contemplation, perhaps a vow of silence"

Maxie Szalwinska, The Sunday Times
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Daily Mail

"Hold on to your wimples"

"Call me a miserable old monk, but I hated Sister Act"

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
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The Times

"Patina Miller display the first of her star qualities, a terrific voice. Add warmth, humour, vivacity - and you've a star who lacks Whoopi's wry vulnerability but adds dazzle to the razzle around her"

Benedict Nightingale, The Times
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The Observer

"If you can smother quibbles about the daft story... and if, crucially, you like to save up for big-budget musical spectaculars, this is your night this summer"

Euan Ferguson, The Observer
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"Is "Sister Act" great theatrical art? No. Is it hit entertainment? Oh, yes"

David Benedict, Variety
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The Guardian

"All too typically the nuns, in Anthony van Laast's choreography, kick up their heels like the Rockettes and prance around in gilt vestments that might be described as surplice to requirements"

Michael Billington, The Guardian
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The Telegraph

"I suspect this musical comedy about a nun on the run could prove habit-forming"

Charles Spencer, The Telegraph
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📷 Main photo: Round up of reviews for Sister Act at the London Palladium

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