Theater review: 'Nunsense' from Winter Park Playhouse

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It's safe to say that as long as there is community theater, there will be productions of "Nunsense," Dan Goggin's excuse to have women dressed as nuns sing silly songs and crack corny jokes.

With minimal staging, no costume changes and a small cast of five, it's ideal for amateur groups. So it was with interest I approached the latest incarnation of "Nunsense" to grace Central Florida. The show opens the 10th-anniversary mainstage season of the Winter Park Playhouse, a professional company. (In this usage, "professional" means a troupe that pays its actors and is affiliated with the Actors' Equity Association union.)

Could a professional company lift Goggin's material, which can be groan-inducing?

In the hands of director Roy Alan at the Playhouse, the answer — praise the Lord — is yes.

Now, not even a stage full of Tony winners is going to raise this show all the way to heaven. But Alan and his five habit-clad stars breathe a lot of life into material that can so easily fall flat.

This is achieved mainly by that oh-so-difficult trick of hamming it up to pull the laughs from the material — but then knowing when to move on just before that hamminess becomes unbearable.

There's more a back story than a plot, so here it is: A gaggle of nuns at the convent of the Little Sisters of Hoboken have accidentally been poisoned by their chef — Sister Julia, Child of God. If you giggled when you read the first three words of the chef's name, you start to see Goggin's level of humor.

The remaining nuns — well, a group of them deemed talented by the Mother Superior — are staging a variety show to raise money for the burials of their last four fallen comrades. If you can't laugh at the idea of four "blue nuns" chilling in a freezer, this isn't the show for you.

And that's it. There's some worry about the board of health, and Sister Mary Amnesia would like to remember who she really is, but none of that's important.

What is important to the show's success is the vitality of the five women playing the nuns, and here they all shine.

Kayla Kelsay is sweet as a nun who longs to dance, while Kate Zaloumes makes you think Rosie O'Donnell has taken the stage — or at least her voice — as a comically tough-tawkin' New Yawk sista.

As Sister Mary Amnesia, Natalie Cordone puts a shrillness in her soprano to great comic effect, and her twitchy dancing is prime physical comedy. Cami Miller has a field day as Mother Superior, who wants to be proper but can't help letting her good-ol'-gal side shine through.

But it's Lorri M. Key who's the one to really watch. She brings a touch of slyness to her ambitious Sister Mary Hubert, who loathes her name and wants to be more than director of novices. It's just enough to put a little bite in the silliness, and her big number, "Holier Than Thou," rightfully brings down the house.

It's a short step from "Nunsense" to nonsense as this show proves. But this production turns nonsense into some pretty funny stuff.

 

'Nunsense'

What: A musical comedy by Dan Goggin

Length: 2:05 including intermission

Where: Winter Park Playhouse, 711-C Orange Ave., Winter Park

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. performances on two Sundays, Aug. 12 and 19, as well as three Thursdays, Aug. 9, 16 and 23; "Wacky Wednesday" show at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22; through Aug. 25.

Tickets: $38; $35 seniors; $28 matinees and "Wacky Wednesday"; $20 for entertainment-industry professionals and students age 25 and younger

Call: 407-645-0145

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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