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The 1000 Islands Playhouse has opened their season with a lively production of NUNSENSE II by Dan Goggin. It continues the saga of the Little Sisters of Hoboken. Still at Mt. St. Helen’s school, they’re ready to perform a thank-you show in the school gym for their supporters. Instead of performing on the set for the school’s production of GREASE, this time they’re stuck with a set for THE MIKADO.
The loosely constructed plot is really just an excuse for a series of musical numbers, most of which in Act I are thinly disguised adaptations of songs from the original. However, there are some clever and very funny new musical ideas in Act II.
Speaking of the set, Robin Fisher’s design is colorful and actor-friendly. Festooned with Japanese lanterns extending out over the audience, it features a moveable bridge, a mock-Torii gate and a tea house that conceals the two-musician band. Said band consists of band leader Greg Runions on percussion and Scott Davey on keyboard. They provide excellent support and often sound like at least six rather than two.
Tim Fort’s lighting design is just fine as are Jayne Christopher’s costumes. After all, nun’s habits are nun’s habits, so Miss Christopher has let herself go with the terrific can-can skirts.
All the ladies in the cast are very good singers and Musical Director Sandy Thorburn has done his usual excellent job, especially on the group choral numbers. Hilary Wilson is very good as Sister Robert Anne. I enjoyed her “habit humor” and her solo “I Am Here to Stay” is very powerful.
As the balletic novice Sister Mary Leo, Ramona Gilmour-Darling does an expert job of “the dying swan” on roller skates. I loved her phone-answering jete. Kristin Galer is a suitably confused Sister Amnesia and does an excellent job with both the bingo game and the puppet number.
As the Mother Superior, Mary Kelly doesn’t have either the larger-than-life presence or show-biz pizzazz to pull off “Look, Ma, I Made It.” She’s much more effective in the drunk scene and number with Sister Herbert, played with a fine-tuned sarcastic edge by Marlene Handrahan. Sister Herbert’s performance of “What Would Elvis Do” is hilarious, especially her body language.
Jan Alexandra Smith has done a fine job of directing and choreographing. I especially liked the staging of the hat and cane number and the clever “We’re the Nuns to Come to When You Go.” She’s dealt well with all the audience participation, from the opening through the bingo game to the sing-along. She and her strong cast have made each character both believable and distinct, quirks and all.
I have to admit that NUNSENSE II doesn’t appeal at all to my sense of humor. I’m obviously in the minority, as the audience had a wonderful time. I was afraid the woman sitting next to me would do herself an injury, she was laughing so hard. If you’ve ever seen any of the various incarnations of NUNSENSE, you know what to expect. This is a good production – well cast, well sung and energetically and expertly performed.
On a scale of one to five the 1000 Islands Playhouse production of NUNSENSE II gets four and one-third fish. For North Country Public Radio, I’m Connie Meng.