In the right hands, Nunsense is a side-splitting comedy that can win over audiences of all ages.
The plot is the first clue that the audience is in for a trip through the bizarre. The production is a talent show given by five survivors of the Little Sisters of Hoboken nunnery after the rest of the sisterhood succumb to botulism from eating vichyssoise prepared by Sister Julia, Child of God. The talent show is to raise enough money to bury the deceased.
Featuring a book, music, and lyrics by Dan Goggin, Nunsense opened Off-Broadway in 1985 and went on to become the second longest running Off-Broadway show in history.
Now playing at the Woodstock Opera House through April 14, Woodstock Musical Theatre Company’s mounting of Nunsense is nothing short of spectacular.
Featuring highly adept direction from Barry R. Norton, Nunsense is well paced. There is never a moment in which the audience is not being entertained in some fashion. Norton is highly respected for always providing this level of top-notch entertainment in every production he helms.
Music Director Rosemarie Liotine-Aiello has the cast singing beautiful harmonies in the group numbers and blasting down the house with energetic solo songs. Her on-stage band featuring Barb Klein, Karen Stein, Brian Anderson, Charlie Sommers, and Dave Byers is brilliant – always complimenting the singers and never over powering them.
You don’t typically think of Nunsense as a big dance show, I mean we are talking about nuns here. However, Karen Smith’s choreography truly shines. From ballet to tap to jazz, the dancing really works to flatter the strengths of the performers.
Nunsense features a very small on-stage cast, so deficiencies by any one member of the troupe would be glaring. Thankfully all the nuns are up to the challenge.
As Mother Superior, Pamela Jones is stoned faced and rigid until an incident with confiscated contraband from one of the students at the Sister’s Mt. Saint Helen’s School at the end of Act 1. At that point she unleashes a comedic monologue that has the audience in stitches.
Sister Mary Hubert is second in command to the Mother Superior. Played by Kristin Lundine, Sister Hubert is a comedic delight. Lundine seems to channel the spirit of Groucho Marx for her comedic timing and ability to set up a punchline. Her vocal belt is equally as strong. And her facial expressions? To die for!
The youngest nun in the bunch is a novice by the name of Mary Leo, who not-so-secretly longs to be the world’s first nun ballerina. In the role, Angelina Straus provides a feisty take on the character with equal touches of ‘sweet and innocent’ and ‘look out world, here I come.’ Her voice is beautiful and displays a wide range of versatility.
Emily Robles is outrageously funny as Sister Mary Amnesia. As the name suggests, her story is a simple one. Nun shows up at nunnery….Crucifix falls on her head…She has complete amnesia, not even knowing her own name. With her deer-in-the-headlights expression Robles is able to get the audience erupting in laughter with the power of one little glance. She too displays an amazing mastery of a wide range of vocal styles.
Elaine Cashmore brings down the house with her rowdy interpretation of Sister Robert Anne, the resident rebel among the nuns. Every bit as funny as Melissa McCarthy, Cashmore is a streetwise nun with a devilish streak for pranks. Her Brooklyn accent and East Coast attitude are worth the price of admission. She gives her character an attitude that seems to say ‘I’m gonna get into some trouble – and you’re coming along for the ride.” This makes her an audience favorite right from the start.
If you are in the McHenry County area, you would be hard pressed to find a better local production at this time of year than WMTC’s Nunsense. If you’re outside the immediate vicinity, be assured that Woodstock is an enticing place to visit. Come for a weekend. Take in the show and then take in the town.
Nunsense plays Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through April 14 at the Woodstock Opera House (121 W. Van Buren Street, Woodstock). Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 PM; Sunday performances are at 2 PM. For ticket information contact the Box Office at (815) 338-5300 or www.WoodstockOperaHouse.com.
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