Strong Voices Make Shore Rep’s NUNSENSE a Hit at Kelsey Theatre

by Connie Giordano

Gina Lupi (replaced by Jessica Mennella) as Sister Amnesia; Karen Ficarra as Sister Robert Ann; Elizabeth Rzasa as Sister Leo; Lynne Truex as Mother Superior; and Maureen Illmensee Rada as Sister Hubert. Tickets are available by calling the Kelsey Theatre Box Office at 609-570-3333 or online at

Friday night was the opening of Shore Repertory’s production of NUNSENSE at the Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College.  Shore Rep is a new and upcoming theatre company started in 2011, based out of Brick, NJ.  The company’s mission is to produce high quality entertainment at “family friendly prices,” and NUNSENSE fits the bill…playbill, that is.

Deftly directed by Joe Ficarra, NUNSENSE tells the story of five nuns trying to raise money to bury four of their fellow sisters who tragically perished from food poisoning, currently residing in the convent’s freezer.  Set in the gymnasium of Mount Saint Helen’s Catholic School, the story is a delightful romp with snappy numbers and a wit that anyone who even lived near a Catholic school can appreciate.  Originally conceived as a line of greeting cards, the story about the sassy sisters originated off-Broadway in 1985; and runs second only to THE FANTASTICKS as the longest running Off-Broadway show.

All five actresses played their roles with skilled craftsmanship, and strong voices.  Lynne Treux is hilarious as the Mother Superior, stealing the scene when she “accidentally” gets high with some student contraband.  Maureen Ilmensee Rada as Sister Mary Hubert, sister second-in-command, had a very commanding presence onstage, with the singing chops to back her up.

Elizabeth Rzasza is adorable as Sister Mary Leo, the nun with an affinity for dance.  Karen Ficarra’s Sister Mary Robert Anne, the tough nun from Brooklyn, is very endearing as the sister who secretly thinks she’s a star.  I admired her ability to transform on stage with a simple twist of her habit’s headpiece.  The stand-out was Jessica Mennella, or Sister Mary Amnesia.  Ms. Mennella’s expressions on stage were hysterical, honoring a role that could be qualified as the Shakespearean clown in the story.  With her comic timing and strong voice, I was shocked to discover she was a last minute replacement and learned the part in a week, proving without a doubt this actress is a true master at her craft.

What stuck out the most for me were the actresses’ voices.  Though each had their own unique style, they harmonized beautifully together.  While the show is funny and sentimental for any former Catholic School survivor (yours truly included), the strong voices is what makes NUNSENSE a hit.

Another part of the charm of NUNSENSE is the actresses’ breaking of the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly.  The Kelsey is a huge theater, seating 383, my recommendation is to arrive early and sit in the first tier of seats to appreciate the quips and jibes that can get lost in the upper seats of the theater.  Age appropriate for teens and up, NUNSENSE, kept fresh with updated jokes and hip references, is a delightful night of musical theatre. Enjoy!

Directed by Joe Ficarra
Produced by Shore Repertory Company
Aug. 17-26, 2012
Kelsey Theatre
at  Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550
(609) 570-3333

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