From “The Flying Nun” to the “Sister Act” franchise, women of faith portrayed on screen has provided comedic gold for decades.
Over 35 years ago, Dan Goggin crafted a greeting card collection featuring a nun with quippy sayings. When the collection’s popularity grew, he became inspired to develop a cabaret show that eventually evolved into an all-out musical called “Nunsense.”
The popular musical opened at Longmont Theatre Company last week and will run through March 27, with shows occurring at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“The show has been a huge hit,” said director Pat Payne, who has directed the production many times prior — including recently at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, where he is production manager. “(It) has spawned at least eight sequels and is beloved by audiences all over the world. It has played on six continents and in dozens of languages. I think the reason is — at its heart it is not only funny, but also just a fun, enjoyable time at the theater.”
The comedy could certainly be labeled as dark, as it centers around five of the 19 surviving Little Sisters of Hoboken. The other 52 residents of the covenant perished after the cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidentally poisoned them with a tainted batch of Vichyssoise — a thick French soup commonly made of boiled and puréed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream and chicken stock.
Luckily, certain sisters missed the deadly meal because they were out playing bingo.
“I play Sister Mary Amnesia — the sweet, innocent nun who lost her memory,” said Jessi Green, whose character was forever altered after a crucifix fell on her head. “She’s an eternal optimist, so when I play her, I get to look at the world through her child-like eyes.”
The corpses of the nuns who perished are temporarily stored in the freezer. Desperately needing funds to bury their sisters, the habit-wearing crew decides to throw a benefit variety show to cover the cost.
Outlandish dance routines, jubilant songs and audience quizzes are just a few of the ways the holy ladies entertain.
“The thing that makes the show so funny is that these nuns — who are supposed to be the pinnacle of pure and good — are really just as flawed as anyone else,” Green said. “The variety show is each of their chances to shine, and they can’t help but revel in that spotlight a little more than their vocation normally allows. But they’re real. That’s what makes you love them.”
The hilarious production features an unfiltered nun puppet, Sister Mary Annette — also brought to life by Green.
“Mary Annette was quite the costar,” Green said. “Once I got comfortable, she really took on a personality of her own. She’s crass where Amnesia is sweet, and she says everything Amnesia can’t. She gave me the opportunity to explore this other side of Amnesia’s inner monologue — as a dialogue — where she’s a little tired of being so nice all the time.”
Attendees will no doubt be impressed by the powerhouse vocals and comedic timing delivered by actors.
“I love that ‘Nunsense’ has an ensemble cast,” Green said. “Each of the nuns gets a chance to shine onstage. I’m a big believer that there are no small parts, and ensemble musicals really showcase that idea. I feel lucky to be on stage with such a talented group.”
Another funny element is that the nuns have to put on the variety show at a middle school whose stage is set up for a production of “Grease.”
“Of course, I hope audiences walk away laughing,” Green said. “Goggin’s script is a lot of fun. But one of the major themes of the show is the importance of the choices we make. Throughout the show, each of the nuns reflect on her decision to join the convent because that choice forever alters the course of her life. I think we can all relate to those big decisions and the transformation that can come with them.”
More than 10,000 productions of “Nunsense” have been staged around the world. Different casts have included industry heavy-hitters, like Phyllis Diller and Sally Struthers.
“Of course if you are of the faith, you will find some very funny moments, but if you are not, the premise is still very funny and the characters do not disappoint,” Payne said.
Tickets are $30, plus fees.
“I love working with the folks at LTC because everyone is having such a wonderful time and they are loving what they are doing,” Payne said. “Especially after nearly two years of our industry being hit so hard, it is nice to see theater coming back with a vengeance and with everything happening in our world right now, I am so excited to offer a way for folks to escape and simply laugh.”