Dan Goggins’s 1985 absurd and laugh-out-loud funny musical comedy NUNSENSE kicked off the eighth season of Porchlight Revisits. Here are three key takeaways from my viewing of this intentionally nonsensical musical comedy.
- Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Weber’s pre-show talk remains a joy: Weber opens each Porchlight Revisits performance with a “Behind The Show Backstory,” and he always adds colorful commentary and fascinating tidbits of musical theater history into the conversation. The pre-show talk for NUNSENSE followed this tradition nicely, and I was particularly impressed with Weber’s discussion of the show in the context of other musicals centered on religious themes.
- Porchlight Revisits provides an opportunity for artists to expand their skill sets: Michelle Lauto, who I know primarily as a formidable musical theater performer, directs NUNSENSE. She’s joined by choreographer Jenna Schoppe and music director Kailey Rockwell. For a show that’s all about the nuns, I also loved that NUNSENSE had an all-female directing and choreography team. That’s a nice touch, and a detail that did not go unnoticed! Lauto, Schoppe, and Rockwell clearly worked together to make NUNSENSE as much fun as it could possibly be.
- NUNSENSE is stacked with talent: Of course, NUNSENSE wouldn’t be able to land the laughs if it weren’t for winsome performers in the roles! Goggins’s musical centers on the ridiculous idea that five Little Sisters of Hoboken must put on a revue fundraiser to help bury some of their fellow sisters after an unfortunate case of botulism breaks out at the convent, following the consumption of an ill-prepared Vichyssoise by the incompentent cook. Sister Mary Regina (Cynthia Carter), Sister Robert Anne (Missy Aguilar), Sister Mary Amnesia (Landree Fleming), Sister Mary Hubert (Kyra Leigh), and Sister Mary Leo (Rebecca Keeshin) are now left to sing after the tragic consequences of that last supper. It’s a completely absurd storyline, but that’s entirely the point. Lauto has also worked closely with her performers to add some updated references to this NUNSENSE (and Goggins’s original script allows for such improvisation).
Carter is wonderful as Sister Mary Regina, the Mother Superior who may not be quite as superior as she seems. Carter milks the performance for all it’s worth, and has a particularly funny moment after she encounters an intoxicating substance left behind by some of her Catholic school students. Leigh has two supremely enjoyable solos as Sister Mary Hubert, and her lower vocal register provides a nice complement to the other performers when they harmonize together. As the novice Sister Mary Leo, Keeshin leans into the role of the daffy ingenue. She also has a chance to display her delightful dancing skills, including some ballet en pointe. Aguilar is hilarious and earnest as Sister Robert Anne, who has been cast in the revue as the understudy and just longs to be in the spotlight. She finally has that chance with her raucous solo number “I Just Want to be a Star.” And perhaps the brightest star of all in NUNSENSE is Fleming in the role of the forgetful Sister Mary Amnesia. Fleming has impeccable comedic timing and remarkable deliveries. She truly makes us believe that Amnesia cannot remember a thing, but then she snaps to in certain moments during the show and that makes the effect all the funnier. Fleming also showcases her crisp soprano in her solo numbers and in the group songs. Her performance is the cherry on top of the hilarious musical sundae that is Porchlight Revisits NUNSENSE.
For more information on the rest of the Porchlight Revisits season, visit PorchlightMusicTheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Justin Kocher