OREM — I always look forward to attending the opening productions for both the indoor and outdoor seasons at the SCERA theater. I find that the opening shows often become favorite performances for me, so I was excited to attend SCERA’s production of Nunsense, directed by Michael Carrasco, to see if the trend would hold. I think that I can safely say the trend continues. Nunsense was a night of much-needed laughter.
Nunsense is Dan Goggin‘s musical about the Little Sisters of Hoboken who returned from a bingo night to discover that 52 of the sisters in the convent had been accidentally poisoned by their cook Sister Julia Child of God. They managed to pay for the burials of all but four of the dead nuns. The remaining four have been placed in the freezer while a benefit performance takes place to raise the lacking funds. The play begins as five of the remaining nuns take to the stage at the benefit. It is a show filled with puns, nuns, silliness, mischief, and a wide range of musical styles.
Allison Books, in the role of the Mother Superior, Sister Mary Regina did well at being commanding while still being humorous. Her antics, while accidentally becoming high, were riotous, in particular her attempts to mount a bar stool by going over the counter. My favorite of her vocal numbers was her duet with Sister Mary Hubert (played by Shelly Stewart Truax), during the song “Just A Coupl’ A Sisters.” This song talks about their ability to harmonize with each other so it is imperative that Regina and Hubert do indeed mesh well, vocally. I loved many of the songs during this production, but this was one of my favorites just for the harmonies between Books and Truax.
Sister Mary Robert Anne, played by Mariah Hatch, was easily my favorite character. I loved her spunk, mischievous, toughness, and I especially loved that I saw another side to her as she sang “Growing Up Catholic.” I enjoyed the running joke of Robert Anne putting a photo of Mother Superior’s face in questionable locations, and then giggling about it with Sister Amensia. Hatch did well at playing the many levels of Sister Robert Anne, and I loved her renditions of “Playing Second Fiddle” and “I Just Want To Be A Star.” (She rocked that feathered boa and habit!) But Hatch was not the only dancing nun in the cast. Sister Mary Leo, performed by Shaylia Johnson, also brought a fun energy by performing Jillian Ormond Vanderstel’s choreography. I specifically enjoyed Johnson’s performance during “Benedicite.” Her singing and dancing were solid and sure, and I loved her character’s reaction when she’s caught dancing in style a bit more rowdy than ballet.
Sister Mary Amnesia, played by Chelsea Lindsay, was a delightful airhead because of her memory loss after an accident. (A crucifix fell on her head.) Although she frequently becomes confused and even a bit sad, she is predominately a cheerful soul. I was impressed with how smoothly Lindsay did at switching between vocal styles. I especially enjoyed her performance of “So You Want To Be A Nun.” Lindsay had a clear and distinct voice for both Sister Amnesia and her hand puppet (designed by Nat Reed). The two voice choices contrasted nicely with each other.
The set, designed by M’liss Tolman, was a unit set of a two-story school interior and sprinkled with pieces of set and props for a school production of Grease. It was nice to have the upper hall level to add some variance to the staging. There was also a small bar with some red bar stools, presumably a piece of set for Grease, that were well utilized in this production. I like how most of the props (design by Christy Morton) used were also props that doubled for the school production. For example, the car used for the nuns’ drive-in number was the “Greased Lightnin'” car. I also liked that the costumes, designed by Kelsey Seaver, all have a little bits that helped to separate each character. For example, Sister Robert Anne had sparkly high tops on while the bottoms of Sister Amnesia’s shoes have an “R” and “L” on them to help her determine which foot to put the shoe on. The lighting design by Marianne Ohran was well executed, and I only noticed one tiny instance where it didn’t work perfectly. As Mother Superior is coming down the steps on stage left, she stopped at the top step which left the top portion of her face in the dark while she was the character in the center of attention.
The show on opening night started between five and ten minutes late, and when it did start the cast was mingling and speaking with the audience. This was a fun touch, especially as the fourth wall is non-existent during most of the production. However, I kept wondering when the show was actually going to start. I would have liked it better if the nuns started their rounds a few minutes before the show was supposed to start. Of course, there might have been opening night issues that I was not aware of that slowed things up. I presume that this pacing issue will be resolved for future productions.
I genuinely enjoyed attending the SCERA’s production of Nunsense. It is the kind of production that isn’t filled with intense sets, costumes, musical numbers, and dances. Rather, SCERA’s Nunsense allowed me to sit back, relax, and receive my daily dose of laughter. I love how much the cast interacts with the audience and treats them as the audience for the benefit performance. This was a solid performance with strong vocalists, actresses, cast chemistry, and dancing. I’d go again just to hear these women sing. Although some of the pop cultural references may only be picked up by those who lived through the 1960’s and 1970’s, this show is appropriate for all ages. I recommend it if you are need of a good laugh or for a fun night out with friends.