LOGAN – “Nunsense” is an off-beat little musical that demands big talents and the current Music Theatre West production of the show meets that challenge in spades.
The musical began its theatrical life in the 1980s as an off-Broadway review good-naturedly lampooning the foibles of Catholics. The farfetched premise of the show is that the few surviving members of the Little Sisters of Hoboken are staging a variety show to raise money to bury members of their convent who were poisoned by accident.
Since the plot of “Nunsense” is both paper thin and wildly improbable, the shows stands or falls on the strength of the characterizations of its five cast members.
And, when it comes to those characterizations, director Marianne Sidwell has assembled a cast that soars.
Teresa Jones is hilarious as Sister Mary Regina, the convent’s control-freak mother superior who tries desperately to keep her fellow sisters within the bounds of religious propriety. When the prissy nun innocently gets high as a kite, the result is a laugh-riot of physical comedy.
MTW veteran Celeste Baillio is back as Sister Mary Amnesia, who is endearingly not all there as she drifts through “Nunsense.” In contrast to her usual over-the-top comedy, Ms. Baillio captivated the opening night audience with a sweetly understated performance that still shined brightly.
Chloe Allen is a delight as the novice Sister Mary Leo, who still irrationally dreams of being Catholicism’s first prima ballerina nun. She has a lovely voice and can dance up a storm.
Ginny Teuscher plays the streetwise Sister Robert Ann, a dead-end kid from Brooklyn who chafes at being cast as the variety show’s understudy. Ms.Teuscher’s portrayal is amusingly subversive from start to finish.
Finally, Julie Allen is superb as Sister Mary Hubert, the convent’s power behind the throne. She’s the spark plug in the show’s early ensemble numbers, dominates a second-act duet with Ms. Jones and can really belt out a solo when she get the chance.
The five MTW performers spent a good deal time interacting directly with the audience. When some obscure bit of Catholic humor occasionally fell flat with the mostly LDS theatergoers, the ladies cleverly covered with quick-witted improvisations.
The high points of “Nunsense” include a crowd-pleasing tap dance number, a rousing tent-revival finale and the show’s live musical accompaniment under the direction of the incomparable Jay Richards.
Performances of “Nunsense” will continue at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan through July 31.