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Phil Willmott

Sister Act, staring Whoopi Goldberg, Makes a Surprising return to the West End

Whoopi Goldberg - Sister Act London The West End is abuzz this morning with the news that the hit musical SISTER ACT will return to the capital next year starring movie actress Whoopi Goldberg.

You may recall that it’s a big brash, fun and fabulous variation on the popular film comedy, also starring Goldberg, that tells the story of how Delores, a disco diva, hiding out from some gangsters, pretends to be a nun and transforms the convent choir into into a swinging bunch of gals belting out disco and gospel numbers, much to the indignation of the fearsome Mother Superior. (Maggie Smith in the film)

The surprise isn’t that it should be revived in the West End, it was a big hit in 2010, or that W.G will star. She’s played the Mother Superior here before. The first surprise is that the A list celebrity will be playing Delores this time around.

That’s a shock because the role is a big sing. In fact it’s such a demanding singing part that producers originally held a nation wide search to find a performer who could manage it, of course this was also part publicity stunt.

Although W.G began her stage career with a featured character in Stephen Sondheim’s cerebral musical comedy A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, she has no significant track record as a live singer.

Has she suddenly developed a rock star, leading lady voice? Or will the show be rewritten so that the role has less or easier musical numbers for Delores?

It wouldn’t be the first time it’s been altered. It differs from the film with a different story arc but most noticeably because the movie used existing songs whilst the stage show has an original score by Disney’s Alan Menkin. In between its successful runs here and on Broadway the script was also tightened up by acclaimed comedy writer Douglas Carter Bing. I haven’t seen this version but it was successful enough to spawn dozens of revivals across the globe.

The other surprise is that the show, which arrives in town next summer, will only play 39 performances. The box office will need to be very busy to recoup the cost of remounting the show over that short a period.

Plenty of things about the project remain under wraps. We don’t know yet whether this till be the original 2010 productuon or a completely new staging. TV comedienne Jenifer Saunders will play the convent boss (good idea - she’ll be very funny) but we don’t know who else will be in the cast or even which theatre it will play in.

But, despite all the surprises and mystery I, for one, am looking forward to having the nuns back in town. We’ll need a little of their sunshine in post Brexit Britain.

Sister Act Tickets - Starring Whoopi Goldberg