A lot of fun and Nunsense
We’ve seen Broadway musicals from all sorts of things. Movies, plays, TV shows, cartoons… but did you know that the musical Nunsense, which opened last weekend at the Corbin Theater Company in Liberty, was created from a line of greeting cards? True story! Creator Dan Goggin’s card series contained a nun with some off the cuff comedic comments with a slightly irreverent flair. They were so popular that he put together a cabaret show whose original 4 day run ending up going for 38 weeks. At that point he realized he had something really special and the Broadway version of Nunsense was born and ran for 10 years. The success was so overwhelming that there have been 5 sequels and 3 spin offs.
The show is not quite as provocative as Book of Mormon, but it is filled with so much that you can’t really appreciate it all in one viewing. When you walk into the theater and see the set for Grease, don’t worry… you’re in the right place and it’s part of the show. The last survivors of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, with it’s rather dark history of disasters, have taken over the gymnasium at the local middle school to put on a fund raiser and the eighth graders are doing a production of Grease. Survivors? Yes. 52 of the sisters were accidentally poisoned by Sister Julia, Child of God when she made them a bad batch of vichyssoise. As fate would have it, some of the sisters were off playing bingo and were not called to heaven just yet as they are left to deal with the aftermath.
So, why the fund raiser? In order to pay for the burial of the 52 sisters, Mother Superior had a vision to start a greeting card company to raise the funds. It all went according to God’s plan until Mother Superior miscalculated the funds and bought an Apple TV (updated from the VCR and Camcorder in the original script however I think a more expensive item, such as a 4K TV or something more expensive, may have been a better choice) leaving them with four sisters on ice… literally as they are stored in the convents freezer without the means to bury them. As you can see, nothing is sacred in this play.
The key to this play is to create a rapport with the audience so they come along for the ride. There is some improvisation required as there is some audience participation. The cast does a great job with this and from the opening you begin to believe the “play within the play” and go along for the ride. The parts where they bicker or play off each other are delightful, which make up for the lack of trained voices. Luckily the songs don’t require highly trained voices because this is a fund raiser by the best of the remaining sisters as the performers. Individually, the sisters do well with the music. However when they sing together, even though they are hitting all the harmonies, they are collectively quieter than when they are doing solos. And as they are using recorded music, there were times when a different tempo may have served them better, but it’s still a very enjoyable show.
The sisters all have their quirks and the cast does an excellent job defining these differences,which helps as they are all in full habits. Mother Superior Mary Regina (Rebecca Dempsey) is the strict authoritarian complete with clicker. Whiles Dempsey does well with the stricter part, when she inadvertently gets high from some drugs found in a locker she is hysterical. Sister Hubert (Becky Poitras) the second in command. She is like the old sibling who covers for the kids and works to keep Mother Superior happy. Poitras has a strong voice and plays the part of peace keeper well.
Sister Robert Ann (Angie Robinett) is streetwise and starstruck. She is the understudy for Mother Superior who REALLY, REALLY wants to perform. Robinett has a lot of fun with some over the top antics which are very effective, You never know what she’ll do next. Sister Leo (Dawn Stevenson) wants to be the first ballerina nun and takes this opportunity to show the world why she dances. Sister Mary Amnesia (Heather Wolesky) suffers from… amnesia. That’s how she got her name. Wolesky does a grand job of playing the lost nun and milks the comedy perfectly. She does a fantastic job engaging the audience when she quizzes them. And poor Friar Cyrilliac (Patrick Simpson) has a smaller, but very important role of supporting the sisters as the performance goes off the rails. This is not an official role but often times a friar is used to enhance the story. In this instance he use of a felt board to explain He has good comic timing, even as Mother Superior repeatedly mangles his name.
Nunsense runs through Saturday April 8th at the Corbin Theater in Liberty, MO. The theater is on the town square, but you will want to leave early because the square is under construction and you may have to park a short block away. But don’t let that scare you because this is a fun show that you will enjoy. For tickets and more information go to http://www.kcstage.com/performance/nunsense.