NUNSENSE on Display at Shannondell

by Walter Bender

Front: Renee Grant, Middle: Beth Eustis, Nancy Kadwill Top: Katie McCool - members of the cast of Methacton Community Theater's NUNSENSE.

Methacton Community Theater’s latest production is NUNSENSE. This show is the first in a franchise, spawning six sequels and 3 spin-off shows, and has the distinction of being the second-longest running show Off-Broadway, running for 3,672 performances. NUNSENSE is the story of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who have a bit of an emergency. Sister Julia (Child of God) served some vichyssoise which “tragically” killed 52 of the sisters. The remaining nuns were able to bury 48 of them with proceeds from their greeting cards (inside joke…Nunsense Greeting Cards were the origin of the franchise) but the Reverend Mother used the remaining proceeds to purchase a Betamax, and so the nuns have put together a review to raise money in order to bury the final four.

The main characters in NUNSENSE are Mary Regina (Katie Clements), the Mother Superior of the Little Sisters of Hoboken. Regina is old-school Catholic, insisting the nuns wear traditional habits, keep the traditions of the order, and speaks with an Irish accent. Clements does a nice job of bringing out the softer side of Sister Regina. Second in command is Mary Hubert (Nancy Kadwill), who is in charge of the novices. Kadwill is also very light-hearted in her portrayal of Hubert, rarely challenging Regina yet always letting the audience know her true feelings. Beth Eustis plays the rough-edged Robert Anne, a former resident of Canarsie in Brooklyn, where she grew up street tough. Eustis brings out the fun side of Robert Anne, the wise-cracking jokester. Katie McCool is Mary Leo, the novice who wants to be the first famous nun ballerina. McCool is sweet and endearing, and does a very nice job with the dance sequences. (I was informed after the show that McCool was in a severe auto accident during the week, and had to change some of her choreography due to her injuries. I have to say I would not have known…kudos to the young lady for a courageous performance.) Finally, Renee Grant is Sister Mary Amnesia, the nun who doesn’t remember who she is due to being hit in the head with a crucifix. Grant is very funny as Amnesia, her facial expressions and movements keeping the audience thoroughly entertained throughout the show.

The traditional cast of NUNSENSE is comprised by the 5 women discussed above. This production has added a 10-nun “Nunsemble”, each with her own cute invented name, which Sister Mary Regina introduces in the opening of the show. The Nunsemble comes in throughout the show to add voices and additional dancers to the production numbers. While this does add to the volume and gives a nice balance to the harmonies, ironically it also clogs up the stage, making it difficult for some of the production numbers to work correctly. Perhaps a slightly smaller Nunsemble would have accomplished the intended task a bit better.

Shannondell is a beautiful venue, but in this case may have made life a bit more difficult for the cast. It does not easily allow the interaction that this show thrives on, and in spite of the cast’s efforts, there was a disconnect between the cast and audience at times. The energy of the final production number, “Holier than Thou”, was blunted by the spacious auditorium. The show would have benefited by being done in a smaller venue.

In spite of the limitations, the audience of NUNSENSE was thoroughly entertained. As I was leaving I heard many positive comments from those in attendance. There are only a couple dates left to see this venerable production. Leave your cares at the door and enjoy a night of silliness at Shannondell.

Book, Music and Lyrics by Dan Goggin
Directed by Chuck DeLong
May 11, 12, 18, 19 at 7:30 PM, May 13, 20 at 2 PM
Methacton Community Theater
Shannondell Performing Arts Theater
10000 Shannondell Avenue
Audubon, PA

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