“Nunsense” is indeed, “habit-forming”

Photo by RDG Photography – Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s production of “Nunsense” introduces us to The Little Sisters of Hoboken as they host a fundraiser variety show held in a school gymnasium which they explain was already decorated for the school’s performance of “Grease”.

By Amber McIver-Traywick

The Surveyor

When a show’s description starts out by stating, “Sister Julia, Child of God, has inadvertently poisoned 52 sisters,” you know it’s going to be funny and a bit tongue in cheek. “Nunsense,” a musical comedy by Dan Goggin, is both of those things and worthy of a trip to Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (CDP) for a vaudeville-style night of light-hearted, ecumenical entertainment.

The show has been going strong since its debut in 1985 and turned out to be the second-longest-running  Off-Broadway production to date with nearly 3,672 performances over ten years. Unlike some shows, this story resonates cross-culturally and has been bringing laughter world-wide with more than 8,000 performances in 26 different languages. Who knew nun-humor could be so well appreciated by so many. Which brings up the point that although Catholic school alum, practicing or former Catholics and “Chreasters,” might get the show on a slightly deeper level, everyone, including Protestants such as myself, will get a good laugh out of the show too.

The premise of the musical is that The Little Sisters of Hoboken find themselves in need of a significant amount of money to bury the remaining four of their dearly departed sisters (52 in all) who have succumbed to food poisoning brought on by a bad batch of Vichyssoise. The four sisters needing a final resting place are being kept in a freezer which will soon be visited by a State of New Jersey health inspector who will be sure to enact a hefty fine for such an egregious health violation and insist on their removal.

The remaining sisters, Mother Superior, a former circus performer (Samantha Jo Staggs), Sister Hubert (Heather McClain), Sister Robert Anne (Sarah Grover), Sister Mary Leo (Abigail Hanawalt) and Sister Amnesia (Lisa Kay Carter) who has lost her memory after an unfortunate hit to the head by a falling crucifix, decide to put on a variety show in the school gymnasium to raise the needed funds, and you as an audience member are a part of this event.

The incredibly talented all female cast shine bright in this show as each of the sisters get their time in the spotlight exhibiting their talents from dancing and singing to puppetry, all performed with spot-on comedic timing and great chemistry. They are all good. Sometimes there are stand-outs in a performance, but these ladies truly put in a divine performance. Pat Payne’s direction combined with some fun choreography by Stephen Bertles makes the whole ridiculous scenario play out in an energetic and truly entertaining way.

It also bares mentioning that the talented three-piece band backing up the sisters are dressed as priests and also interact with the sisters during the show. We are informed that there were more musicians, as evidenced by several empty seats and music stands, but they too ate of the tainted Vichyssoise and met their demise.

It’s not all poking fun at the Catholic church or those who have followed the calling of that lifestyle, amongst all the laughs it really does have some heart-felt, touching moments that explain why each of the sisters truly love the life they have chosen.

Audience participation plays a fun role in this production as the nuns interact and even quiz the audience members – pay close attention to “A Difficult Transition” when you find out through song and dance that the sisters at one point ran a leper colony. Corny jokes and one-liners abound and at times you might find yourself groaning at some good old fashioned slap-stick that will result in a chuckle despite your desire to maybe have more sophisticated sensibilities.

The menu, as always, is themed along with the show and for this performance provides an assortment of Italian inspired entrees and desserts. Since dessert is the most important part of a meal, I will say the Italian lemon cream cake and the maple bacon bread pudding were fantastic.

It’s a light-hearted, fun musical that anyone can enjoy and I would definitely recommend a visit to CDP if a night of laughter and tasty food appeals to you. “Nunsense” runs through March 3. Tickets can be purchased by visiting Coloradocandlelight.com or by calling the box office at 970-744-3747.

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