Review: Garland Civic Theatre Presents “Nunsense”

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  • Shawn Stalter, Chief Dallas/Ft. Worth Critic

To most of us, nuns appear to be quiet, reserved, pious members of the Catholic religious community who devote themselves to a life of solitude, simplicity and humility. However, in Dan Goggin’s “Nunsense,” the good sisters of Hoboken offer a glimpse of the all-too-human, often amusing, frailties lurking beneath the veil. Garland Civic Theatre’s production channeled these underlying qualities into fun song and dance numbers and hilarious physical comedy which delivered a high-energy, uniquely-entertaining and praiseworthy comedic romp.

Written by Dan Goggin, the award-winning musical, “Nunsense,” transports the audience to a local high school auditorium which appears to be set up for a local production of “Grease.” Here, five nuns from the local Hoboken convent put on a unique variety show to help raise funds to cover burial expenses for 52 recently-deceased sisters who suffered accidental poisoned at the hands of the order’s cook, Sister Julia, Child of God. In the ensuing show, the audience meets, and learns more about the diverse qualities of the surviving nuns including former circus star, “Mother Superior Mary Regina,” her second-in-command, “Sister Mary Hubert,” the streetwise Brooklyn native, “Sister Robert Anne,” the aspiring ballerina, “Sister Mary Leo,” and “Sister Mary Amnesia,” who took a blow to the head from a falling crucifix and can’t remember how she even got here.

The non-stop nonsense in “Nunsense” is what makes it such a fun musical. Chock full of diverse and witty song and dance numbers, satire and physical comedy, it prepares a course which satiates nearly every comedic taste.

From the very outset, the audience knew they were in for a unique experience as the quick-witted Rachel Marie Starkey’s “Sister Mary Amnesia” threateningly wielded a ruler while conducting a riotous question-and-answer session. In her role of “Sister Mary Regina, Mother Superior,” Patty Granville kept the ample comedic holy water flowing throughout the show. At one point, she jumped in for a whole-body, riotous interlude after inadvertently ingesting a mind-altering substance found in one of the local students’ lockers.

Francine Simpon’s portrayal as the rough and tumble Brooklyn native, “Sister Robert Anne,” rounded out the production by expertly portraying a wide range of pop culture-inspired figures from Star Wars, the Wizard Oz and more. Despite the wide range of talent on the stage, Adelaide Willert’s performance of “Sister Mary Leo,” was the highlight of the show. She not only showcased her soaring ballet skills, but brought down the house with a side-splitting Flying Nun-inspired act.

The final soulful number, Holier Than Thou, led by the strong vocals of Xavier Burns as “Sister Mary Hubert,” was an appropriate and energetic summation of this diverse show. Despite the ample laughs in this production, there was breathing space for some genuine, well-rounded character development to shine through when each nun abandoned the one-liners to offer glimpses into their backgrounds and life events which lead them to the convent. Although this production took a few moments to line up its timing and connect with the audience, once it found stable footing, it sprouted angel’s wings and soared skyward.

Infused with the right mixture of cheeky, “church-humor” and dark secular comedy, Garland Civic Theatre’s production of “Nunsense” delivers an impressive, well-rounded, crowd-pleasing performance.

Directed by Andi Allen and produced by David Tinny, Garland Civic Theatre “Nunsense” stars Patty Granville as “Sister Mary Regina, Mother Superior,” Xavier Burns as “Sister Mary Hubert, Mistress of Novices,” Francine Simpson as “Sister Robert Anne,” Rachel Marie Starkey as “Sister Mary Amnesia,” and Adelaide Willert as “Sister Mary Leo.” The show includes music direction courtesy of Erin McGrew Herndon, stage management from Cheryl Pellett, set design by Juan M. Perez, lighting from Theresa Clapper and costuming courtesy of Kerra Sims.

Reserve your seat to experience “Nunsense” from Garland Civic Theatre and learn more about upcoming productions by visiting https://www.garlandcivic.org/. “Nunsense” runs through May 12, 2019, and is performed at the Granville Arts Centre (300 North 5th St. Garland, TX).

Photo credit: David Tinney