Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Millbrook: "Nunsense"

Starting off their fourth season, the Millbrook Community Players have a sure-fire hit on their hands with the very popular and zany comic musical, Nunsense. The play has made the rounds of countless community and educational theatres for years, some in the local area, and each one has had its own particular take on it.

Under John Collier's direction, and with Chris Perry's musical direction and Katy Hoffmaster on the piano, the seven featured actresses exhibit individual talents and a fine sense of ensemble performance.

The "Little Sisters of Hoboken" are holding a fundraiser performance event showcasing the assorted talents of the convent: singing, dancing, stand-up comedy, and ventriloquism are all included in the selections. -- It seems that they must raise sufficient funds to bury the four remaining of the fifty-two sisters who died of food poisoning accidentally brought on by tainted vichyssoise prepared by one of the nuns, Sister Julia (Child of God) [Shari Taylor]; and this must be done before the local health authorities inspect their kitchen.

The assorted talents of the sisters are showcased in the variety show they produce under the stern guidance of Mother Superior [Angie Mitchell]. Their black and white habits disguise their internal yearnings for performing: Sister Robert Anne [Brooke Brown] wanted once to be a musical star and can belt out a song with the best of them; Sister Mary Leo, the novice, [Victoria Martin] dreamt of being a ballet diva, the novice mistress Sister Mary Hubert [Felicia Swanner] sings gospel music, and Sister Mary Amnesia [Daphine McCormick] is an amazing country-western singer as well as a very funny ventriloquist. Even Mother Superior finds her untapped talent when under the influence of a street drug called "rush".

There is a lot of silliness in the script -- corny jokes and cliche witicisms about Catholicism and convent life, with songs like "Nunsense is Habit Forming" a throwaway line about "penguins", a Carmen Miranda impersonation, a tap-dancing chorus line, and a disastrous video called "Nunsmoke".

Yet all of it is good-natured fun that requires precise comic delivery, various high quality vocal styles, and an ability to be slightly risque without offending anyone.

There are still a few unresolved technical issues in Millbrook's new theatre space. Lighting has been improved but not yet enough for much dynamic variety; this should be resolved as new instruments are added. And the acoustics are so lively that the piano often drowns out the singers' voices or causes both tempo and pitch problems by blurring its sound to the actors.

The actresses in this production unquestionably have the requisite talents, and they also work as a tight ensemble unit. Hats off to them in this adventure.