For the inaugural production of the newly formed Nashville-based theatre troupe, Cathedral Players, Kevin F. Raymond, the company's director, has chosen the fun-filled show-within-a-show 'Nunsense'. Adding a bit of realism to the musical comedy, it's being presented, fittingly enough, at Nashville's historic Cathedral of the Incarnation (2015 West End Ave.), which first opened its doors in 1914. 'Nunsense' concludes a two-week run with 8 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday, March 7 & 8 and a final Sunday matinee on March 9 at 2 p.m.
'Nunsense' tells the story of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who have decided to put on a show in order to raise money needed to bury the majority of their order who perished following an unfortunate meal prepared by Sister Julia, Child of God. (Come on....say her full name out loud a couple of times).
This synopsis, the pop culture references, and the fact that the sisters decide to not build a set, but instead repurpose the 'Grease' set already in place in their auditorium, perfectly set the tone for the entire show...complete and utter silliness.
Adding to the blissful absurdity of the plot, Mother Superior Sister Mary Regina (Judy Tamble) opted to buy the convent a plasma TV instead of using the money to bury their departed sisters, thus the need to put on a benefit show. Tamble gets some of the shows biggest laughs when she accidentally experiences a certain rush after inhaling a mysterious liquid. This reference to a drug that was prevalent in the disco era, is not only surprising, considering it is a show about nuns, it's also rather dated. Nonetheless, it's among the funniest scenes in the show. Tamble is also enjoyable during her musical numbers, in particular 'Turn Up the Spotlight' and a later duet 'Just a Coupl'a Sisters'.
While Sister Mary Regina's remaining sisters are more than willing to help with the benefit, they're not exactly The Singing Nun. That doesn't stop Sister Robert Anne (Lauren Pratt) from having aspirations of stardom. At every turn, she attempts to steal the spotlight, presented musically with such numbers as 'Playing Second Fiddle' and "I Just Want to Be a Star'. When not singing, she manages to steal quite a few scenes, thanks in part to her rough-and-tumble Brooklyn-esque persona. Her quick quips and great timing keep the laughs coming in spite of the show's ridiculous plotlines.
Then there's Sister Mary Amnesia. As her name might suggest, Sister Amnesia (Megan Roddick Crosswy) can't exactly remember who she is or anything about her past. Yet another far-fetched idea that allows for much on stage mayhem. Of course it doesn't hurt matters that Crosswy speaks in a sweet, gentle, bubble-headed voice reminiscent of Judy Holliday. She has the daunting task of a bit of audience participation (remember this show originated Off-Broadway). Depending on the audience member's willingness to play along, this bit can either result in smiles or awkward silence. Thankfully Crosswy rolls with the punches either way. Being that they are in Music City, Crosswy's 'I Could've Gone to Nashville' is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Rounding out the cast are two of my theatre crushes, Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva and Lauri Gregoire. I've had the pleasure of seeing Gregoire in a number of shows over the years, and she's always a joy to watch. As Sister Mary Leo, she gets the chance to showcase her talents as a gifted choreographer and dancer. Most notably when she joins the rest of the sisters for 'Tackle That Temptation With a Timestep'. I particularly loved her ballet solo in the oddly named, but sweet 'The Dying Nun Ballet', a sort of mash-up 'Swan Lake-meets-The Flying Nun.
Then there's Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva as Sister Mary Hubert. I can never say enough about Whitcomb-Oliva. No matter the role, the subject matter, or whether it's a straight play, farce, historical drama, or a grand-scale musical. If she's in the show, one thing is guaranteed, she's gonna give it her all. While Gregoire's footwork is the visual highlight of the aforementioned 'Tackle That Temptation With a Time Step', it's Whitcomb-Oliva's vocals that truly make this number a standout.
Whiltcomb-Oliva's comedic timing and facial expressions are priceless. WIth one look she can incite uproarious laughter! She's also featured in the above-mentioned 'Just a Coupl'a Sisters', but it's during 'Holier Than Thou', one of the show's final numbers that Whitcomb-Oliva belts it out like the Diva she deserves to be.
One final note about Cathedral Players' 'Nunsense' as it wraps it's brief Nashville debut with 8 p.m. shows Friday & Saturday, March 7 & 8 and a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on March 9, just keep in mind, it's not Shakespeare, it's just pure nonsense from the first laugh to the last. For tickets or more information, CLICK HERE.
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