Saturday, 8 August 2015

CD Review: Sister Act the musical (Original London Cast Recording)

“Queen of Angels is not your grandma's church anymore. God help your grandmother if it were."

It was quite the unexpected pleasure returning to this soundtrack. My abiding memories of Sister Act the musical were of initial disappointment that it wasn’t a retread of the film (one of my all-time favourites doncha know), the randomness of Whoopi Goldberg jetting in for a week of shows and the subsequent tour being rather good (if a little spoiled by the women behind me not shutting up for a minute). But listening to Alan Menken’s score, I was amazed how much of it I was able to easily recall – I may have seen the show 3 times but the last trip was back in 2012.

And how. From the raucous girl-group energy of openers ‘Take Me To Heaven’ and Fabulous, Baby!’ to the (only slightly) more sedate musical offerings of the nuns’ choir in ‘Raise Your Voice’ and ‘Bless Our Show’, there’s a roof-raising joyousness to many of the songs that brings larger groups of the cast together. And leading from the front, the glorious Patina Miller is a full-throated pleasure to listen to as the divine Deloris, her voice soaring like a heavenly host but also capable of tenderness as in the stirring simplicity of the title track.

And where the narrative may sometimes have felt a little slowed down by the score’s insistence on visiting each of the main supporting characters to give them a solo song, on disc there’s no such problem and the mini character studies work just fine. Sheila Hancock’s sonorously cracked vocal lends her Mother Superior softness beneath the stern exterior, Katie Rowley-Jones unleashes the inner diva of novitiate Mary Robert and as the flipsides of the coin of justice, Chris Jarman’s hoodlum and Ako Mitchell’s cop are both deliciously deep-voiced in the supremely hummable ‘When I Find My Baby’ and ‘I Could Be That Guy’ respectively.

So all in all, I’d say that the soundtrack to Sister Act the musical is probably more effectively tuneful than it is largely given credit for, and certainly better than how my brain let me remember. The film's soundtrack will forever be one of my most listened-to CDs and I fully intend to use 'I Will Follow Him' somehow in either a marriage ceremony or funeral of mine. But if you’ve seen the show, it might be interesting to give it a listen and see if you remember the songs as clearly as I did and if you haven’t, there’s no time like the present.

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