SHOWING : October 20, 2006 - November 12, 2006
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Nunsense begins when the Little Sisters of Hoboken discover that their cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, has accidentally poisoned 52 of the sisters, and they are in dire need of funds for the burials. The sisters decide that the best way to raise the money is to put on a variety show, so they take over the school auditorium, which is currently set up for the eighth grade production of “Grease.” Here we meet Reverend Mother Regina, a former circus performer; Sister Mary Hubert, the Mistress of Novices; a streetwise nun from Brooklyn named Sister Robert Anne; Sister Mary Leo, a novice who is a wannabe ballerina; and the delightfully wacky Sister Mary Amnesia, the nun wholost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head. Featuring star turns,tap and ballet dancing, an audience quiz, and comic surprises, this zany musical will have you rolling in the aisles.
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
What’s Black & White, and Black & White, and lots of fun?|
Tuesday, November 7, 2006 ||
There is just something about a nun.|
I must tell you that my mother was a lapsed Catholic (Irish Catholic – second generation off the boat). She loved the church (but wasn’t up to the discipline it required). I must also tell you that because I had become a somewhat uncontrollable child, I was told I would be going to Catholic School (Saint Simon and Jude in Bethlehem Pennsylvania) for the fourth grade. I lasted two weeks. OK, in reality it was only about 4 days out of the two weeks (I played “hooky” the rest of the time because the nuns scared the daylights out of me). My brief, but terrifying, experience with the nuns forced me to clean up my adolescent act and I was allowed to return to public school for the remainder of the fourth grade.
But I was never the same after that.
While my past experience with nuns left deep emotional scars (which may someday require thousands of dollars of therapy), my most recent experience with them in Big Top’s current production of “Nunsense” was absolutely delightful!
The little sisters of Hoboken are putting on a show to raise money to deal with an unexpected emergency that has happened to their order. I won’t share the details with you because it would spoil the fun. Go see the show! The sisters work the crowd wonderfully, both before the show and during it. They are a wonderfully wacky bunch of the sweetest penguins you could ever hope to meet!
The Mother Superior (Sister Mary Regina), played by Kathy Manning, maintains order with a firm, but occasionally misguided hand. Kathy has a wonderful voice and an absolutely winning personality. She was born to play this role. Her comedic chops and timing are exquisite (especially in the scene where she investigates some contraband that was found in a student’s locker).
Rene Voige’s portrayal of Sister Mary Amnesia (who can’t remember her real name due to a tragic accident) is over-the-top hilarious! Her constant mugging and clown like facial expressions are a hoot! She also does a great job of allowing her character's innate sweetness to shine through all that goofiness. In the end, the audience can’t help but root for her to find her lost memory.
The street-wise nun, Sister Robert Anne, is played by Anita Stratton who hails from New Jersey (her accent and attitude were dead on – who knew?!). She is the smart-ass nun. Her delivery and comedic timing were absolutely perfect and she had the audience in stitches numerous times throughout the evening. She also has the song in the show with the most words-per-minute, which she executes beautifully (even with that accent!).
Mother Superior’s “right-hand-nun”, Sister Mary Hubert, is played with joy and sass by the wonderful Greta Glenn. Greta has a strong singing voice, great stage presence and she even looks good in a habit (again – who knew?!). She does all this while trying her best not to be too tall (how she ever got into an order called the “little” sisters of Hoboken is beyond me)! Go see the show and you’ll understand what I’m talking about!
The youngest nun, Sister Mary Leo, is played with exuberance, perkiness and great energy by Eileen Fulford. She is a joy to watch as she radiates youth, innocence and sweetness while wearing one of the world’s most unattractive garments. Luckily she has the face of an angel and a smile that fills the room. (Oh my God! I think I’m falling in love with a nun!)
One of the things that most impressed me about this production was the quality of the voices. Each sister has an impressive voice individually, but when they are combined, the effect is thrilling. The harmonies and blend of the voices is wonderful to hear. It also helps that the songs in this show are great too. There is a mix of both funny and tender melodies that will stick in your head after the show (an important quality for any successful musical in my opinion).
The choreography by Maria Karres-Williams was pretty darn good too! She has these nuns doing some pretty impressive moves, including a tap dance number (Yes! Tap dancing nuns – a choreographer’s nightmare I’m sure!). While it is obvious none of the nuns possess any great dancing skills, the moves are designed to enhance their amateurishness and come across as “cute” rather than inept. My favorite bit of movement was the “figure eight”. Go see the show and you’ll understand what I’m talking about!
Director Rob Hadaway (who is also Big Top’s AD) has done an impressive job of getting the most out of his actors and providing the audience with a truly rewarding evening. The set design and use of space is, once again, artistically creative and complimentary to the feel of the show. You know you are in for a fun time the instant you see the set. The blocking and staging were smooth and elegantly done. Everything fit and flowed perfectly.
The musical direction By Annie Cook was another example of making sure the appropriate voice was assigned the appropriate task. Each singer seemed to be perfectly matched to their songs. They sang with confidence, clarity and strength and the result was a beautiful sound (and a great experience).
I can’t possibly overlook the accompaniment from “the little band of Hoboken” featuring Cardinal Ralph Russel on Piano, Bishop David Johnson on reeds and Father Zack Edwards on Percussion. These guys didn’t miss a lick and provided solid backing for the songs and added a little bit of comedy too! The band did a nice job of controlling the volume of the music from the “pit” and never overpowered the singers (really nice for a change in a community theatre musical).
One extra thing that happened at the start of the second act really impressed me. It was the announcement of The Stephen Petty Memorial Fund collection. The sisters passed among the audience with collection baskets (just like at church on Sunday) and the purpose of the fund was explained to the audience and donations were accepted. The night I saw the show, the nearly sold out audience was very generous. I know many theatre groups around town participate in soliciting donations for the fund, but I’ve never actually been in an audience (or a show) when it happened. I was proud that night to be a member of ACPA, and very proud of Big Top.
In closing (yes, I know you thought I was never going to shut up), I think you have one last weekend to catch “Nunsense” before it closes. Save the money you would normally pay the therapist and go see this show! You’ll have a great time!
P.S. In case you didn’t get the joke in the title of this review, it’s a riff on a joke I remembered from elementary school.
Q: What’s Black & White and Black & White and Black & White?
A: A nun rolling down a hill!
(Let me tell you, that one really killed in the second grade!)
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)