Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Nuncrackers"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Joe Coyne

"Nuncrackers, The Nunsense Christmas Musical"

Playwright - Composer - Lyricist Dan Goggin
Director Teri Gibson
Music Director Debbie Allen

Musicians Matt Ambrose and Peter Himmer

Scenic Designer Robert Russo
Lighting Designer Russ Swift
Costume Designer Rachel Padula
Production Stage Manager Kris Diehl


Sister Robert Anne ..... Mary Callanan
Sister Mary Hubert ..... Leigh Barrett
Sister Amnesia ..... Nessa Hill
Father Virgil Manly Trott ..... Dan Bolton
Sister Mary Regina ..... Sarah deLima
John ..... Garrett Cardosi
Louise ..... Heidi Gagne
Billy ..... Gabriel Goodman
Maria ..... Alexandra Socha

How many of you have seen the inside of a convent? Went to religious school? Had a nun for a teacher. It was comedian Mark Russell of Public Broadcasting's humor closet discussing the logic that if you are taught by a Homosexual school teacher then when you grow up you will become a Homosexual. Mark said that if this was true: when he grew up he would become a nun. Being a product of first grade at St. Mary's School in Southie (Our Lady of Czestochowa), I still find nuns fascinating.

But not as fascinating as Dan Bolton who portrays Fr. Virgil Manly Trot decked out as a nun in a pink tutu dancing a very tidy ballerina step. Bolton also sings a very believable "The Christmas Box" a simple song about essential non-tangible gifts.

I don't know how many "Nunsense" installments will be in playwright, composer and lyricist, Dan Goggin's future, but as long as there are guilt ridden, religion ambiguous congregations then such plays will work. This is true even if one of namesake nuns, Julia Child of Savenour's has left the region for warmer climates. The question has been asked how long can you drag out the same old routine and as this production shows: as long as you invigorate the dragging and fill the seats with laughter.

If you wish you can search for a plot in the current production of "Nuncrackers. If you find one, e-mail me but in the meantime enjoy, enjoy another installment (one of the five) of the Little Sisters of Hoboken and their tribulations. Without searching, you will find the zany irreverent humor spilling over as the cast resurrect the failing fortunes of their first televised production, "The Nutcracker"

Similar to the "Nunsense" formula, there is another audience participation gig with give and take ad-libs. A Secret Santa segment awards prizes such as ten commandment stickers. As part of their ever present fundraising for the convent, there are now items being offered on the Catholic Home Shopping Channel: a St. Victoria's Secret personal item especially designed for nuns and nunwannabees, a home halo kit and, what ever they are, bible balls. A version of the Village People's "Y-M-C-A" was reformatted into a dancing recruitment ditty for the convent, "In the Convent" . Leigh Barrett as Sister Mary Hubert along with the cast gets down with an elongated blues ending to one of the 12 songs in the production, "It's Better to Give" sounding like Billy Vera and the Beaters.

The costumes were from the original production at the Chanhassen Theatre in Minneapolis and invigorated the standard black and white effect. The outfits for the Three Wise Nuns, the kids as a tea kettle and the country western look of Sister Amnesia gave credence that there was supposed to be a something else going on in the plot than song and dance routines.

Mary Callanan as Sister Robert Anne secured her position in musical heaven with a ballad rendition of "Jesus Was Born in Brooklyn". She has highly timed comedic talent and commands attention on the stage. At one point in the story on the ethics of returning a lottery ticket her single world, "Sure" took the laughs. She pronounced it slowly with such inner consternation and regret.

Credit should also be given to the late arriving Director, Teri Gibson who filled in for choreographer Felton Smith who became ill shortly after rehearsals began.

I had problems understanding some lyrics (in the first act) and at least at The Lyric Stage, the voices overwhelmed the material (perhaps written for less talented singers). "Nuncrackers" then is a series of skits and scenes to enjoy without the need to ponder.

Joe Coyne

"Nuncrackers" (30 November - 29 December)
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 427-7172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide