Review: NUNSENSE A MUSICAL COMEDY at Porthouse/Kent State

NUNSENSE delights audience at Porthouse

By: Jul. 08, 2024
Review: NUNSENSE A MUSICAL COMEDY at Porthouse/Kent State
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Musicals are born from many sources including books, movies, plays and comic strips.  None, however, has a more intriguing past than NUNSENSE, which is now on stage at Kent State’s Porthouse Theatre, on the grounds of the Blossom Center. 

NUNSENSE, with book, music, and lyrics by Dan Goggin, originated as a line of greeting cards which depicted nuns making nasty, snide and sarcastic comments.  The cards were a sensation.  

Goggin, ever the creative entrepreneur, expanded the concept into a cabaret show that ran for 38 weeks off-Broadway, and eventually into a full-length musical. “The original Off-Broadway production opened December 12, 1985, running for 3,672 performances and became the second-longest-running Off-Broadway show in history.” The show eventually spawned six sequels and three spin-offs.

It is estimated that more than 25,000 women have played in NUNSENSE productions worldwide, including such classical ladies from the “mature generation” as Edie AdamsKaye Ballard, Phyllis DillerSally Struthers and Joanne Worley.

The tale concerns five of the surviving Little Sisters of Hoboken, a one-time missionary order that ran leper colony on an island south of France.  Upon returning to the convent one evening, after a wild game of bingo, the quintet discovers that their cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidentally killed the other fifty-two residents of the convent with her tainted vichyssoise.

Unfortunately, the Sisters have limited funds and can’t afford to bury all of their now-dead members.  How are they going to get the corpses out of the freezer and into the ground?

Hey, this is a farce, so no logical rules are expected.  In fact, the more ridiculous, the more the audience will be entertained!

Mother Superior has a vision in which she is told to start a greeting card company to raise funds for the burials, along with vaudeville shows and passing the hat (literally).

And, so, we enter into a series of incidents in which the “holy” women, which includes a ballerina nun, a wack-job novice, a streetwise sister, and a childlike member of the group, who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head, take us on a journey of solos, dance routines and an audience quiz.  (Ridiculous?  Remember it’s a farce meant to entertain!)

The Porthouse production, under the guidance of director, Eric van Baars, does the work proud.  The audience was laughing and clapping throughout, enjoying the ridiculousness. 

The cast, Sandra Ross, Colleen Longshaw, Theresa Hall, Lara Troyer and Becca Bailey, along with a surprise “guest” whose identity not to be revealed as it will run a clever schtick, all create clear characterizations.  They have good singing voices and carry out their farcical interpretations well. 

The audience was especially delighted with “Turn Off That Spotlight,” the first act concluder in which the Mother Superior, “accidentally” gets stoned.

Musical director Jonathan Swoboda and his on-stage musicians are in good tune, Joe Burke’s lighting design aided in setting the right moods.  It is difficult to set the sound levels in what is basically an open-air theatre, so that all can hear the song lyrics, but there seems more of a problem in this production than past experiences at Porthouse.  (Maybe it was because I was seated in the last row in the extreme corner of the audience.)

Capsule judgment:  Great theatre this is not, but the sold-out audience was totally delighted, and that is the goal of this type of show.  If farce is your thing, go, see, enjoy!  (BTW---it can get hot in the covered outdoor theatre so be sure to hydrate!)

NUNSENSE runs through July 13, to be followed by ANNIE from July 19 through August 4.  For tickets go to porthousetheatre.com or call 330-672-3884.



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