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Nunsense
a Musical Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY CHILDREN MUSICAL
by Dan Goggins

COMPANY : Button Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Red Clay Theatre
ID# 3342

SHOWING : April 10, 2009 - April 26, 2009

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Join the little sisters of Hoboken for a night of non-stop laughter!


CAST & CREW LIST
Musical Director Ginny Lockhart
Crew Brian Jones
Stage Manager/Light Designer Kelly Knowlton
Sister Mary Leo Erin Leigh Bushko
Sister Robert Anne Maura Carey Gebhardt
Reverand Mother Traci Davison
Sister Hubert Jennifer Hendrickson
Sister Mary Manesia Amanda Leigh Pickard
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Not Bad, but Not Really Habit-Forming
by Dedalus
Monday, May 4, 2009
4.0
The Button Theatre’s “Nunsense” at Red Clay Theatre in Duluth has brought back the Little Sisters of Hoboken, and it has put me in a bit of a quandary. I have two friends in the cast, the production itself does what’s it’s supposed to do, there’re no bad choices or performances, and I found myself smiling, even laughing for most of the show. I just didn’t like it that much.

Maybe I’ve seen too many really bad productions of the play – this is, in fact, the first one I saw in which the actresses could sing well – and am, as a result, a bit prejudicial to any production. Maybe I’ve heard the songs too many times (and still find them fairly unmemorable) that even singers who do them justice will be “spinning their wheels” for me. Maybe the show has outlived its time, and contains too many jokes we’ve heard too often to find very funny. Maybe, I just don’t like nuns. Okay, never mind that last one -- I actually find nuns sorta kinda hot.

I’ve always found the premise of the play a bit problematic. Here are five nuns who’ve lost most of their friends, and yet they joke about them as if they had no emotional stakes in their lives or deaths. While this may provide a few amusing jokes, it’s not very fertile ground upon which to build a play. The nuns soon lose all their credibility (a situation not helped by the frequent bawdy joke or disrespectful aside) as characters, and everything becomes just a thin exercise in Nun jokes. And the placement of a Baptist-style gospel song at the end of play about nuns is just, well, odd.

Maybe I’m being too harsh here. After all, there isn’t a hostile bone in the play’s body. But, by the same token, it does occasionally feel as if it had been written by Catholic School drop-out as some sort of revenge. The play isn’t overtly hostile, but there is a veneer of meanness about it, that, of course, may be something I’ve always just incorrectly read into it.

Still and all, Button does everything right here. The set is sparse and tacky, looking every inch the Middle-School production of “Grease” it’s supposed to represent (just to disagree with a more judgmental friend who thought it was too small). The cast quickly finds their individuality hidden by the robes, and their voices blend nicely in the group numbers. They may have missed a few cut-loose belt moments, but this could have been the music director’s choice to not over-fill the small venue. Still, there were a few such nice moments, especially from Maura Neill’s Sister Robert Anne and Amanda Pickard Hardie’s Sister Mary Amnesia (certainly the comic highlight of the show – this sister could make me giggle just by looking out in numerous “What was I talking about” moments. And thanks for the St. Francis Bookmark!). I liked Erin Bushko’s dying Nun dance, and Traci Davidson’s Mother Superior milked the “getting high” scene perfectly – it’s usually overlong, not funny, and contrived, but, for some reason I can’t figure out, it clicked here.

Sure, I wish Ms. Neill would have put a little more Brooklyn into Sister Robert Anne, and I wish Ms. Bushko would have tapped the strong belt I know she has (I once worked next to her in a Netherworld scene in which she screamed full voice every two minutes for hours on end without any noticeable voice damage), and I wish the cast would have taken even more opportunities for pre-show and intermission audience interaction. And, of course, I wish I liked the songs and the play more that I did.

But, when all is said and done, “Nunsense” is an inoffensive trifle, one that’s sung and acted very well here and gives the audience a smile or three. It’s also a play that makes me glad I’m not a friend of the Little Sisters of Hoboken. I’d hate to be stacked in a freezer after my untimely demise only to be made the object of a handful of weak jokes.

So, even though it’s closed, I daresay it’s not too late to say that “Nunsense” was fun, if not habit-forming.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Nunsense- Did it really move you? by StageFan
I saw the show and thought Ms. Neill had enough "Brooklyn" for me for Sister Robert Anne. I thought the show was acted very well and left the audience feeling good when they left. I thought the vocals of the show was decent but not ones that I will remember in a month or maybe even a week. The show of course is a good basic show but it's Nunsense.... I would recommend going especially if you can get half price tickets otherwise I would opt for other theatre choices....
Holier Than Thou, and Funnier Than Most
by TheBlairZip
Monday, April 27, 2009
4.5
Simply put: This is one of the most entertaining shows I have seen at a community theatre in quite a while.

All 5 women did a wonderful job! The comic timing was dead-on, the singing was fantastic, and the chemistry between all of the sisters was very believable. In fact, I thought they all did a great job of being these wacky, high-energy performers but yet staying within the realm of believability as actual nuns. (Special kudos to those ladies who affected an accent and kept it consistent throughout the production!)

I must admit, I have worked on shows with Amanda Pickard Hardie before, so I knew her characterization of Sister Amnesia would be hilarious and very endearing. However, I had no idea how talented a singer she truly is! Her soprano was amazing, especially considering that one song had her switching back and forth between a highly operatic style and a gravely, Ethel Merman-type style. She rocked the house with her high notes, and the audience was eating it up.

Traci Davison, as the Reverand Mother, proved that she knows how to work a crowd. Any time that she was alone on stage, she had the audience's undivided atttention. She also brought the right amount of sterness to her character without feeling overbearing to the other sisters. And her physical comedy at the end of Act 1 was, for me, the real showstopper! It was the perfect example of how a simple comedic gag can last for several minutes without getting old.

Both Maura and Jennifer (Sisters Robert Anne and Hubert) brought the right amount of sass to their characters, and, man, can they belt! They got to provide the best one-liners in the show and did so with great flair and timing. I feel that these are the two characters that are hardest to find that balance of believability that they are nuns and not just actresses pretending to be nuns, and these two ladies definitly found it.

Lastly, and certainly not least, is Erin Bushko as Sister Mary Leo, the youngest and newest member of the convent. I thought she did a fine job in portraying the naive and soft-spoken sister of the group, which served as a nice contrast since her songs are much more gentle and subdued than most of the 'showier' songs. She was also very good with staying in character as she wandered through the audience ad-libbing with us prior to the show.

In addition to the performances, I would like to commend the Music Director for including a percussionist! Some shows work using only a piano, but when you have a mostly upbeat show, like this one, then drums really help take it to the next level...especially when they do not overpower the piano or singers! Well done, percussionist! (It also helps keep the audience in check when they can't collectively decide to clap on or off the beat.) ;-)

The only negatives I could pick out were the wireless mics and the pacing of Act 2. All of the sisters were using wireless mics (the kind that run through the actor's hair and sticks to their forehead). It wasn't their visibility that annoyed me, though, it was frequent amount of popping coming through the speakers from the wireless mics. I'm not sure what all goes into setting up the sound for a show, but that popping sound is distracting enough to take you out of the show, at times.

The performers had kept a great pace for the first act, which really kept the show flowing without noticable transitions from one song to another. In the second act, however, there were some odd transitions that hindered the pacing. I'm not sure if it is a problem with the script or if someone might have forgotten a cue, but it was noticable. Not as distracing as the mics, but still noticable.

Despite my few grumblings, however, it was still a heckuva show. It's been a while since a show made me laugh so hard it brought tears to my eyes, but the gang at Button Theatre did just that. Thank you, ladies, for a wonderful evening! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
A Solid Hit
by playgoer
Saturday, April 25, 2009
4.0
Comedy chops and singing skills go hand-in-hand in Button Theatre's "Nunsense." Traci Davidson brings the house down as Mother Superior, both for her hilarious comic schtick and her excellent singing. Amanda Pickard Hardie, playing a ditzy Sister Mary Amnesia, reduces that house to rubble with her wide-eyed forgetfulness and pure, floating soprano (mixed with Sister Mary Annette's brassy belt). Both give powerhouse performances.

The role of Sister Robert Anne can be a difficult one to pull off, since it calls for sarcastic, street-smart savvy on one hand and a hunger for the spotlight on the other. This isn't an entirely believable mixture as written, and Maura Carey Neill doesn't meld the two sides compellingly into a whole. But when she belts out "I Just Want to Be a Star," that rubble-strewn house collapses anew. Wow!

Erin Bushko as Sister Mary Leo does a fine job, although her voice seems a little weaker than the rest of the cast. Amplification was used, so there was no problem hearing. Red Clay Theatre doesn't have a big auditorium, so I question the need for amplification, but Erin Bushko and Traci Davidson in particular seemed to rely on it to get all their lines across.

Jennifer Hendrickson gives a spirited performance as Sister May Hubert, but it's a little too spirited and broad for the size of the house. Her singing is strong, but the gospel style of "Holier Than Thou" is not a natural fit for her. She works hard at it, and it shows. When Traci Davidson hops into the song for a verse, it sounds natural and fun, and the contrast is unfortunate.

The set is pretty unattractive, with amateuristic lettering on the "Nunsense" placard and "Grease" signage. Part of the charm of the show is that it's supposed to be done on a middle school stage, and the level of the artwork certainly gives that feel. It's definitely a contrast to the striking program design by Jennifer Hendrickson. But I don't notice authorship credits or rights acknowledgement in the program. Isn't that a violation of the rights agreement?

The house was packed at the performance I saw, and the Red Clay Theatre seems to be a good match for the Button Theatre. Let's hope they continue putting on shows with such solid, crowd-pleasing panache. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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