Birds of Feather star gets in on Sister Act in Manchester

Lesley Joseph with the cast of Sister Act
Lesley Joseph with the cast of Sister Act

FUN is very much the order of the day for Lesley Joseph, one of the stars of Sister Act which is currently running at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.

The hit musical is enjoying a short run in Manchester before heading into London’s Eventim Apollo for a summer residency.

Based on the hit movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, the musical is the story of a nightclub singer who witnesses a murder and hides in a convent to avoid the mob.

In Manchester and London Lesley will play one of the nuns, Sister Mary Lazarus with Jennifer Saunders playing Mother Superior. But her connection with the show doesn’t end there. Sister Act will head out on a major UK tour starting in September which sees Lesley taking on the Mother Superior role.

Lesley Joseph Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act (Picture: Oliver Rosser)
Lesley Joseph Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act (Picture: Oliver Rosser)

Lesley Joseph Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act (Picture: Oliver Rosser)

“I was never going to do the show in London, I was just going to play Mother Superior on tour,” said the Birds of a Feather star.

“But then chance came up to play a different role in Manchester and London and I just thought it would be fun. It’s a good chance to get to know the cast and also to get to know the show.”

Lesley will be forever associated with the role of Dorien in the TV comedy Birds of a Feather but she has a wealth of experience in stage musicals including Calendar Girls and Young Frankenstein.

“At my time of life - Lesley’s now 76 - I don’t think there’s anything that I’m so desperate to do,” she said. “ I just want to work and enjoy it. I never say yes just to do a job. I want it to be something I think will be fun. Fun is at the top of the list every time.”

It won’t just be Lesley who is having a great time with the show. Audiences too are going to love it.

“A lot of the numbers are very uplifting,” said Lesley, “which is what I think we need at the moment. There is so much dire rubbish going on at the moment that people just want to come out to the theatre and have a laugh and hear some great songs.

“People love Sister Act whether they have seen it on stage before or it’s the film. It’s a fun, uplifting story. It’s got some quite heart-rending moments about solidarity and friendship and I think it’s what people need at the moment.”

With a London residency awaiting and then a national tour you could forgive Lesley for being a little nervous about the next few months. But she’s remarkably relaxed about the whole thing.

“There’s always a degree of nerves with anything even after 50 years or however long it’s been but it’s not real nerves,” she said. “You know that the whole thing comes alive with an audience so when you are in rehearsal it’s just a question of placing it on the stage and making it work because the first time you perform in front of an audience you know it will change dramatically

“So no, I’m not nervous. I’m just looking forward to being part of it.”

As she will be taking over the role of Mother Superior for the show’s UK tour, will Lesley be paying particular attention to Jennifer Saunders over the nest few weeks to see who she tackles the role?

“She’s so different to me I honestly don’t think I’ll take anything from her other than a love of the part,” said Lesley. “We approach it from completely different angles and I love watching her. But you do have to do it your way.

“When I played Miss Hannigan in Annie I had to leave for a while to do panto and they brought in Paul O’Grady to replace me - now his approach was totally different.

“We did a job share for the UK tour and I really enjoyed that. I did it again with Craig Revel Horwood last year and to be able to dip in and out like that was wonderful.

“To be honest, I don’t know how I’m going to play Mother Superior yet but I’m not going to think about that for the moment. I want to enjoy what I’m doing now first.

“But I am going to miss the dancing. The nuns do quite a lot of intricate movement that has taken up most of our rehearsal time.

“But I’m lucky - it’s fun getting to play both parts in such a big show.”

Sister Act, Palace Theatre, Manchester, until Saturday, July 9. Details from