Gams on the lam: Nunsensations! cast members include (from left) Sofia Coon, Jodie Baum, Erin Race, Kate Huddleston and Christine Lightcap.
shows later, the limit Goggin is stomping on is costuming: How can the
Little Sisters of Hoboken compete with skin-revealing Les Vegas
showgirls when they can’t take those habits off? This means big jobs
for costumer Jeanette Reyner and wig and headdress specialist Karen
Procopio, two of the creative forces behind the Talent Company’s area
debut of Nunsensations! The Nunsense Vegas Review, now at the State
Fairgrounds’ New Times Theater.
visiting the worlds of country music (Nunsense Jamboree!, Jewish music
(Meshuggah Nuns) and classical music (Nuncrackers!), Goggin’s premise
for Nunsensations! sends the New Jersey nuns to Sin City. A Hoboken
parishioner has promised the sisters he would donate $10,000 to their
school if they would appear in a friend’s showroom, the low-rent Pump
Room Lounge high atop the third floor of the Mystique Motor Lodge. The
Reverend Mother, Sister Mary Regina (Talent Company producer Christine
Lightcap), has her doubts, but after repeating the line, “What happens
in Vegas stays in Vegas,” each time getting a different implication,
she agrees. If the sisters are not going to take anything off, they
have to put more on.
There are visual cues
early on about where the show is going. The first number after the
overture is “Life is a Game of Chance” (a dig at Las Vegas gambling),
with each of the four sisters sporting large, Sally Rand-style fans.
Other costumes and numbers include “Hollywood’n’Vinyl,” a spoof of the
Andrews Sisters, and a parody of the Village People in “TTM’n’R (Take
the Money and Run).” The most visually ambitious is a satire of strip
clubs, “The Fifth From the Right,” in which the sisters don silk
bustiers over their habits with swinging tassels at the two most
prominent points. Even more imaginative is “Cirque du Blimp,” a riff on
the extravagances of Cirque du Soleil, in which the Reverend Mother
appears, explosively, as the Hindenberg.
the last word in the title is “review,” any version of Nunsense is
going to be about singing and dancing. The show parallels A Chorus Line
with all the talk about ambition and “making it,” as well as a
post-modern undercurrent of commentary on the artificiality of it all,
which is why a certain number comes where it does, and how it should be
played. Sister Robert Anne (Jodie Baum), as is customary, has the
biggest voice of the company, so she delivers the biggest musical
number near the end of the show. She and the audience are assured it
will be the “11 o’clock slot,” almost as a promise that the tomfoolery
and shtick (a non-Catholic word that comes up constantly in the
dialogue) will eventually cease and we’ll have real music. It turns out
to be “Why Sing a Ballad? (“When you can belt out a show tune.”), which
is indeed a showstopper.
Talent Company has shown more of an affinity for the Nunsense franchise
than any other local group (it was the only one to produce Nunsense 2:
The Second Coming, in 1994), producer Lightcap has reached out for new
faces this time, instead of relying on old favorites. Most important of
these is nationally known director-choreographer Ken Prescott, active
in town a dozen years ago and best remembered for co-writing A Dickens
of a Christmas with Pat Lotito, the Salt City Center for the Performing
Arts seasonal favorite. Prescott’s staging wisely takes the four
musicians (led by pianist Nadine Cole) out of the pit and plunks them
at center stage, ready for verbal interaction with the cast.
tallest, literally, among the newcomers is Sofia Coon as the
dance-smitten Sister Leo. Like previous Leos, Coon’s nun is jonesing
for toe shoes, but unlike her many predecessors she puts on taps for an
extended solo, the lament “I Left Him There.” It’s not credited in the
program, but Coon is the daughter of longtime actress Kate Huddleston,
who plays Sister Mary Hubert. Only a college freshman, Coon has amassed
a wide range of credits with different companies as well as recorded
books for Bruce Coville, but her confident dancing, singing and gag
delivery here feel like a debut.
audiences learned of Erin Race’s comic moxie and risk-taking in last
summer’s Debbie Does Dallas. Her Sister Mary Amnesia never misses a
gag, and her musical range includes a quotation from the Queen of the
Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. In the lengthy sequences with the
tough-mouthed hand puppet, Sister Mary Annette, Race never pretends to
hide her lip movement and instead keeps her mouth hidden from view.
from her “Why Sing a Ballad?” solo, Baum’s Sister Robert Anne is often
a team with Huddleston’s Sister Mary Hubert and Lightcap’s Sister Mary
Regina. Much of the vaudevillian banter bounces between them and they
share a number of duets, like “What Plays in Vegas (Stays in Vegas)”
and “Double or Nothin’.”
Audiences can look
upon any Nunsense show as a known quantity, with endless puns, many of
them self-confessed groaners. This edition has a cluster of the
unexpected, however, such as the “clergy” parking permit as a raffle
prize and an inflatable Wayne Newton doll, something a lonely woman
might buy from an Erie Boulevard East novelty shop. ❏
This production runs through March 22. See Times Table for information.