SISTER ACT. Lesley Joseph 'Sister Mary Lazarus', Sandra Marvin 'Deloris Van Cartier', Keala Settle 'Sister Mary Patrick' and Company. Photo by Manuel Harlan

We’ve all seen the 1992 film Sister Act when dodgy nightclub singer Whoopi Goldberg is on the run from gangster Harvey Kettle and placed in a Philadelphia convent under the steely gaze of Mother Superior for her own protection.

“soul is the name of the game in Dolores new choir, and boy do they have it in droves”

But can that really translate into a full blown musical, and would it stand out from the crowd? Yes, yes and yes.

SISTER ACT. Sandra Marvin ‘Deloris Van Cartier’. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Because Sister Act The Musical (on at Oxford’s New Theatre all week), never ventured into schmaltzy, lazy or corny territory, instead relying on a stellar cast whose voices literally took our breath away.

Lesley Joseph, of Birds Of A Feather fame, is the best known name but amply supported by an all-singing, all-dancing cast without a dud note amongst them.

SISTER ACT. Graham Macduff ‘Monsignor O’Hara’. Photo by Manuel Harlan

She plays Mother Superior without a whiff of Doreen; her calm, composed exterior leading an enchanting array of nuns who can’t sing for toffee but whose future is at risk due to low attendance figures, debts and a keen buyer who wants to turn the content into an antiques centre.

Cue Dolores Van Cartier (played so spectacularly by Sandra Marvin), who witnessed her gangster boyfriend Curtis (Mark Goldthorp) shoot an informer. Picked up by head of police Eddie Souther (Alfie Parker), a former schoolmate with a big crush, he places her in the convent to hide her away until the trial.

The mob! SISTER ACT. The Company. Photo Manuel Harlan

Away from all her vices, Dolores reluctantly takes on the convent choir and that’s when the fun begins, because oh were there some voices in there waiting to be heard.

Throwing away the religious songbook, soul is the name of the game in Dolores new choir, and boy do they have it in droves. Dolores shows how it’s done with a voice whose timbre never falters – an exceptional talent. But close behind her is the shy and retiring Sister Mary Robert (Lizzie Bea) whose soprano held the audience in the palm of her hand.

SISTER ACT. Lizzie Bea ‘Sister Mary Robert’. Photo Manuel Harlan

And so we laughed uproariously, swayed, sang and gasped, as the choir’s instant success enables the nuns to spread their wings.

Nuns aside, everyone in the cast sang and danced to their hearts content from the gangster gang to the head of police ‘Steady Eddie’ – who rather stole the show.

So yes, the standing ovation was entirely warranted, because in terms of sheer quality, glorious singing and the joy they inspired, it was an absolutely top night out. Sister Act it is then – on all week at The New Theatre, Oxford.

Sister Act is at the New Theatre Oxford until Sat July 1. Book at