Tonight, I was lucky enough to be invited to the press launch of **Sister Act: the Musical**, which starts previews in May at the London Palladium after The Sound of Music leaves the West End to tour the UK.
A lot of the usual PR guff — how wonderful an opportunity it is, how great all the cast are, blah blah blah — was, of course, present. Somewhat unusually, we got a preview of some of the new music: unlike the film, most, if not all, of the score is original material rather than the movie’s use of classic soul and disco tracks.
For the females in the ensemble cast, this was an opportunity to use the uplifting choral numbers to raise the spirits of the jaded hacks present; for Patina Miller, who will be playing the role of Doloris so famously taken on by Whoopi Goldberg in the original film, it was a chance to shine. All exceeded any expectations, no matter how high they were set.
A personal highlight, though, was the onstage appearance of Alan Menken, who is scoring this new musical. After sitting down at a conveniently placed piano he proceeded to walk us musically through his career, starting with a medley from **The Little Shop of Horrors** and progressing through his numerous works for the Disney Corporation. It was noticeable, perhaps, that movie scores such as **The Little Mermaid**, **Beauty and the Beast** and **Aladdin** deserved medleys of their own, while less successful fare such as **Pocahontas** got just a single memorable song. But that did not matter: to hear Menken perform his own material (much of it written with the late and much-missed Howard Ashman) was a dream come true. Should Radio 2 devote a Friday Night is Music Night to Menken’s work, as they have so recently to Don Black, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Strouse and so many other musical theatre greats, I’ll be there on the front row, cheering on the performers and doing my best not to drown them out in my enthusiasm.
I ran into Menken at the bar shortly afterwards. I was a gibbering wreck.
One should never meet one’s heroes.