Nunsensations! The Nunsense Vegas Revue

Nunsensations! The Nunsense Vegas Revue
By Dan Goggin. Engadine Musical Society. Sutherland Memorial School of Arts. September 9 – 18, 2011.

It’s a lot of frivolous fluff and pink feathers.

Nunsense has become quite a franchise. Nunsensations!  is the fifth of six sequels to the original (the second longest running show Off-Broadway, playing 10 years) and there’s another three spin-offs.

In the original, five nuns who return from playing bingo to discover that the convent cook has accidentally poisoned all the other occupants put on a concert to bury the last of the deceased nuns, stored in the convent freezer. In this edition, the nuns have been offered $10,000 to take a show to Vegas.

If the script and the writing of the characters aren’t quite on a par with the original, a Vegas chorus line of nuns, complete with pink ostrich feather fans and headdresses accessorising their habits, herald feel-good, broad-smile entertainment from the outset.

I’m guessing members of the expanded chorus line are new recruits from the first four sequels. If you’re unfamiliar with the original, an MC fills in on the characters and the plot of the first edition as the show starts; very necessary because from that point on the characters and their relationships are much sketchier than in the original. The spark of, say, the relationship between the Mother Superior and her ambitious deputy, really isn’t really re-created, despite the best efforts of Sue Bunt and Jennifer Barker.

Not a worry though, when the production is so full of fun.

Easily the best opportunities in this Vegas version fall to the role of country and western singing Sister Mary Amnesia, which Bridget Keating grabs with both hands as she absolutely steals the show. She’s a lively, engaging, charismatic performer, and when she turns her hand to leading audience participation, her quick-thinking improvised comedy and timing is a delight. Her puppet work with the potty-mouthed Sister Mary Annette in the second act is hilarious - Avenue Q eat your heart out.

When streetwise Sister Robert Anne (Frances Gates) gets to sing her big “11 o’clock number” near the end, the much-heralded solo moment is another a highlight, before the show is topped off by a Village People style finale.

Brackets of time-honoured nun and religious gags, of the boom-boom vaudeville variety, draw laughter, and some a groans (intended, I think), but it’s just as you’d imagine from a trio of nuns trying their hand at comedy.

The entire cast contributes enthusiastically to this bright, entertaining ensemble show. Director Kerrie Hartin and choreographer Kim Lorenzetto deliver a snappy, high-energy production, well accompanied by the onstage band, led by Valerie Hull.

Stylish art deco lines and the pink and chrome colouring of the set, combined with smart, professionally executed images of cards and dice, make for a particularly attractive look.

Bright, cheerful entertainment.

Neil Litchfield

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