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Mixed reactions to nun musical

"SISTER Act" got a standing ovation on its opening night, but critics were less enthusiastic yesterday about the nun-loaded stage musical based on the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg.

Goldberg is a producer of the show and was in the audience for Tuesday's opening night at the London Palladium, a razzle-dazzle event preceded by performers in nuns' habits rappelling down the building's facade.

The musical stars West End newcomer Patina Miller as a singer who goes into hiding in a convent after witnessing a murder, and soon teaches the holy choir how to sing with secular soul. Veteran British actress Sheila Hancock plays the strict, skeptical Mother Superior.

The musical, directed by Peter Schneider, has a score by Alan Menken and Glen Slater, who collaborated on Broadway's "Little Mermaid." The book is by Cherie and Bill Steinkellner, who wrote for television shows such as "Cheers."

The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer was enthusiastic: "What's not to like, especially when you've got a chorus line of jiving nuns singing their hearts out ecstatically?" he wrote.

The Times of London's Benedict Nightingale said Miller was "the show's great plus" but felt a "sweet, sentimental film has been hyped up, coarsened" in its transition to the stage.

The Guardian's Michael Billington, thought the story had been "vulgarized," and said the show "feels less like a personally driven work of art than a commercial exploitation of an existing franchise."

The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts criticized the show's "artistic laziness, its incuriosity" but conceded it "will doubtless be a solid summer hit."

"Sister Act" had its world premiere at the Pasadena Playhouse in California, the United States, in 2006 and later played at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre.


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