Independent Musical Productions is running a very good production of the comedy musical, Nunsense, through this weekend at the Lee High School Black Box theatre. There were some opening-night jitters during the first act last Friday, but the cast got into the groove and had the audience clapping and cheering by the end. Check it out, if you can get a ticket.
This is the original show that started off the entire “Nunsense” franchise thirty years ago, with six sequels coming out since then. The premise of Nunsense is five nuns putting on a variety show to raise needed funds to bury the last of their fellow convent members who recently died in a mass botulism poisoning. Thus the theatre audience IS their audience, and exists in their reality, so it is a very audience-interactive show. Expect to be talked to, sung to, nudged, poked, joked with, and even pulled up on stage. There may even be quizzes with prizes, to see if you’ve been paying attention. The show is all in good fun, with some good humor, and great songs.
Peter-John Sligting and Sherri Ryan, as the directors, did a fine job of keeping the action moving, and staging it as well as possible for the challenging thrust configuration. Christopher-Joel Carter did great work on the songs, with some very nice blends and harmonies, and not a bad voice in the group, and he leads a talented band that does a nice job of supporting the show. The choreography, by Sherri Ryan, Caroline Taylor, and Jessica Alexander, isn’t anything impressive, but it’s what one would expect nuns to be able to do, and is exactly what the numbers call for.
The cast is all talented, and works together quite well. Audience-interaction shows are HARD for performers to prepare. In a sense, the audience of Nunsense is the sixth character, and we weren’t at any of the rehearsals. In the end, the show just has to open, and the performers finally get to work with their missing scene partner–us. The actors spend the first few performances figuring out the give-and-take, and the nuances of their delivery, that work best. THEN the show can really take off, and be a lot of fun to perform. That’s what’s happening with this show. This second weekend is going to be a blast. Jacinda Rose Swinehart, as “Sister Mary Regina”, the Mother Superior, was the one who put the show on track on opening night, with her hilarious physical comedy at the end of Act One, after the “Unexpected Discovery”. That takes a true talent, and someone completely comfortable on stage, to single-handedly kick a show into high gear. Shannon Rice, as “Sister Mary Hubert”, the Mistress of Novices, has an amazing voice, and brought the house down a couple times. Sonja Eames, Jenni Wood, and Caroline Taylor, round out the cast, and all did a simply marvelous job of providing distinct, entertaining characters, each with their own special moments and great voices.
The technical elements are fairly straightforward. The set, designed by the Directors, is simple and amateurish, but it’s supposed to be, because the nuns have supposedly taken over the stage prepared for a school production of Grease. The lights managed the usual challenge with a thrust production, in keeping the action lit, without hitting the audience in the eyes, and they did an admirable job of adjusting and focusing attention as the different numbers played out. It’s unfortunate that in that small space, the actors needed to be on mics, but at least the levels were well balanced and lacked any pops and fuzz.
Overall, this is a very enjoyable show, and even with the rough start on opening night, it still got a well-deserved standing ovation. I’m sure it’s even better now, as the cast has gotten used to the audience interaction, and grown more comfortable in their roles. Performances continue through this weekend. It’s a small space, so don’t wait to buy a ticket at the door. Show times and ticket information can be found at this link.
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