Village Productions opened NUNSENSE on Friday May 6. NUNSENSE is the story of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who need to raise money for their school, Mt. Saint Helen’s, because their cook accidentally poisoned a number of their sisterhood and due to an unfortunate occurrence (one of the nuns purchasing a DVD player) they don’t have sufficient funds to bury them all. So, the remaining sisters have put together a fundraiser in order to fulfill their task. NUNSENSE is the second-longest running Off-Broadway musical of all time, celebrating its 25th anniversary last year, and has spawned 6 sequels (!) and 3 spin-off shows.
As the audience walks into the theatre, they are greeted by what appears to be the set of GREASE, one of the many sight gags that the show offers. The technical staff (designers are uncredited in the program) has done a fine job of creating a great working space for the performers while disguising it as this other set. The addition of the stage manager/spot operator wearing a habit and being given a character name (Sister Mary Myopia, played by Alathia Campbell) was an extra chuckle.
The cast of the production are all first-rate. Donna Dougherty portrays Sister Mary Regina, the Reverend Mother of the Little Sisters of Hoboken. She is at times stern, maternal and chiding and at others the life of the party. She has a great interaction with the audience (essential for a successful production.) Aside from her accent disappearing at times she was spot-on. Alicia Huppman does Sister Mary Hubert proud, especially in the final production number, “Holier Than Thou”, where she shows off her considerable gospel music talents. Raina Frey Murdock is Sister Robert Anne, the more modern nun from Brooklyn who was street-wise and amusingly sarcastic. Jordan Shoemaker is Sister Mary Leo, the would-be ballerina. She shows her dance training well in the show, and is the epitome of the sweet naïve novice. Rounding out the cast is Rebecca Shoemaker as Sister Mary Amnesia. She was wonderfully vapid at times, portraying the character as confused and air-headed. Her facial expressions were priceless.
The production itself was directed beautifully. Christine Cieplinski did a terrific job of keeping the pace flowing, allowing the cast to interact with the audience, adding in some perfect ad libs, yet not moving far from the show’s story. The small orchestra led by Sister Mary Melody (Donna Kavin) warmed the audience up nicely with a mix of hymns and Broadway tunes as well as performing their parts in the show.
NUNSENSE has been one of the most popular theatre franchises in history. Village Productions has added another jewel to the crown. Congratulations to the cast and crew for an evening the audiences will never forget.
by Dan Goggins
Directed by Christine Cieplinski
May 6 – 15, 2011
TRI-COUNTY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Village Productions)
245 E. High Street