Time to get back in the habit as this all-star cast packs a (not so ) pious punch. There are few things more heavenly than Knight in full flow, and that sublime voice is put to great use as ganster’s moll and lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier. Stepping into Whoopi Goldberg’s big screen shoes, it’s a lot harder to believe she is a failed wannabee, but as she repeatedly belts the roof off the Eventim Hammersmith Apollo all disbelief is suspended. In a tale about hiding out with nuns after you witness your mobster boyfriend kill someone, reality can be left at the door. Instead, this glitzy, glossy show leaves you giddily grinning by the joyous end.
Lighting up the stage with star quality, Knight follows leading roles in The Bodguard and The Drifters Girl with another high-octane confirmation of her West End leading lady status. Not only is that voice goosebumpingly glorious, she has the impressive comedy chops to go toe to toe and wimple to wimple with Saunders.
French and Saunders fans will remember her abrasive Reverend Mother in their Sound of Music spoof and she dials up the cantankerous comedy with relish here. Of course, she gets all the best lines. Asked by Deloris if the convent has a smoking area, she bites back with “You’re heading for it.”
The actress also deploys her physical and facial comedy skills with unholy glee, notably pulling out an electric razor to trim her chin as she sings I Haven’t Got A Prayer. And yes, she can just about hold a tune, with a wing and a (of course) prayer.
There’s excellent support from Birds of a Feather’s Lesley Joseph as a crotchety nun with a penchant for rap and hip thrusting, while Settle brings a delightful gauche energy to the big-voiced Sister Mary Patrick. Lizzie Bea, as shy Sister Mary Robert, gets the showstopping moment of the night with the powerhouse The Life I Never Led.
Props also to Clive Rowe as lovelorn police chief Eddie, whose soulful I Could Be That Guy meanders deceptively along and then suddenly erupts into hilariously kitchy disco splendour.
With none of the music from the film, all the songs are slick, as expected from Disney composer Alan Menken, but few are truly memorable apart from the barnstorming Raise Your Voice.
Similarly, the creaky plot rattles cheerily along as Deloris brings life and joy back the convent. It’s not deep or particularly nuanced, but ultimately it’s a hell of a lot of fun (sorry, Reverend Mother). Sometimes that is more than enough.