The nuns from The Order of the Little Sisters of Scaggsville who we meet in Toby’s Dinner Theatre’s production of Nunsense are anything but the stern, strict, knuckle-rapping, humorless disciplinarians you may have heard about.
The sisters are led by Reverend Mother Sister Mary Regina (Jane C. Boyle) and her second in command, Mistress of the Novices, Sister Mary Hubert (Jesaira Glover). They are joined by Sister Mary Amnesia (Jessica Ball)—she forgot her past and name when a large crucifix fell on her head— the Brooklyn-street-wise Sister Robert Anne (Heather Beck) and novice Sister Mary Leo (MaryLee Adams).
The sisters tell their tale of woe; Sister Julia, Child of God, the convent cook, accidentally poisoned fifty-two members of the order with tainted vichyssoise. Reverend Mother had a vision to start a greeting card company to raise money to bury the deceased. Although successful, Mary Regina prematurely spent what she thought were excess funds to buy a Blu-Ray player for the convent. She then found that they only had enough money left to bury 48 of the 52 of the late sisters and had to put the remaining four nuns into the convent freezer. So, the Little Sisters have come to Toby’s to put on a fund-raiser to bury the four “blue nuns.” And with music, comedy and dancing, these five nuns put on one… Heck of a show.
Director Mark Minnick has chosen an excellent cast. Boyle, as the Mother Superior, is divinely funny. Her timing, body language and facial expressions add layers of meaning to the already funny lines. Although this role is frequently cast with comediennes who may or may not be singers, Boyle shows that she’s a more than capable singer which just adds to an already sparkling performance. The chemistry she creates with Glover as ambitious lieutenant Mary Hubert, is perfect. The friendly banter between the two of them builds to their big number “Just a Coupl’a Sisters” – not only does their acting harmonize, but so do their voices.
Glover really shines when she brings down the house with the her show-stopper, “Holier Than Thou”. I have seen a number of wonderful productions at Toby’s, this may be the best production number I’ve seen there as Glover belts this catchy tune out in true Gospel fashion. It’s an amazing closing memory for the audience.
Ball, as with her other performances (she was a vocally stunning Maria in Toby’s Baltimore production of West Side Story), truly dazzles as the amnesiac Mary Amnesia. She shows off a beautiful coloratura voice in “So You Want to be a Nun”. She displays her comic side when she adds her colorful sidekick puppet Sister Mary Annette with the equally colorful and ribald vocabulary.
Beck is the entertaining class clown, Robert Anne. The perpetual prankster, she frequently rolls in the jokes to loosely segue from one number to the next, keeping the audience in stitches. Adams impresses with a variety of dance including ballet, tap and jazz. Although these are five very talented ladies who each have (and take) their moments to shine, the sum is greater than the parts as they complement each other with the humor, the music and harmonies, and the dance.
The real star here is director Mark Minnick. He heads a wonderful production that really uses Toby’s space well. Theater in the round is frequently challenging, but Minnick’s blocking and choreography are so effective that every seat in the house feels like “front and center” while making it all look natural. The choreography is well done and the show flows seemlessly from scene to scene and before you know it, it seems the act that just started is already over. Music Director, Ross Scott Rawlings, smartly decked out as a priest, directs an intimate little four-piece combo that sounds just right for this show. They manage to fill the room even on the big production numbers.
Say ten Hail Marys and five Our Fathers if you miss this delightful show at Toby’s – Columbia.
Book, Music and Lyrics by Dan Goggin
Directed by and Choreographed by Mark Minnick
Music Directed by Ross Scott Rawlings
Produced by Toby’s Dinner Theatre
Reviewed by Ted Ying
Nunsense runs through Sept 19, 2010.
Click here for Details, Directions and Tickets.