BWW Review: NUNCRACKERS at Seven Angels Theatre
On December 9, I had the pleasure of seeing NUNCRACKERS at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, CT. With book and lyrics by Dan Goggin, this musical comedy mixes segments of traditional Christmas songs, with original music, performed with the accompaniment of a live 3-piece band led by Musical Director TJ Thompson. Directed and choreographed by James Donohue and Semina De Laurentis, this ensemble cast of fifteen incredibly talented performers brought a highly entertaining show to an audience that enjoyed every moment!
The set is filled with Christmas décor, with some moving parts, depicting a convent basement that has been turned into a cable access studio. The fourth wall is totally shattered, and the house left door is sometimes used as an exit for the performers. Some audience members, chosen ahead of time, receive amusing gag gifts, as part of the show, where actress Marcia Maslo, in character as Sister Mary Paul, a nun with amnesia that leads to an intentionally inconsistent southern drawl, approaches those pre-chosen audience members, clearly having fun in every moment on stage, and out with the audience.
The story starts with what is to be the first TV special ever taped in the studio. Cathy Wilcox-Sturmer and Cat Heidel play Sister Robert Anne and Sister Hubert, respectively. Along with Sister Mary Paul, they become a trio with excellent stage chemistry during numerous musical numbers throughout the show. That trio becomes a quintet when Father Virgil, portrayed by Tom Chute, and Reverend Mother, portrayed by hula-hoop expert Michelle Gotay join them on stage.
Along with nine Mount Saint Helen's students, ranging from about kindergarten through ninth grade, the nuns plan to perform an adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, in the studio. An injury to one of the nuns, however, leads to some casting changes.
Father Virgil sings a very moving song called "The Christmas Box," to cheer up a student named Annie, who was feeling down. Young actress Angelina Emanuel enhances the power of this scene by showing convincing emotions and realistic expressions, as Annie.
One of the comedic highlights is when Father Virgil is forced to cover for a nun, in a fruitcake making scene. Tom Chute does an amazing impression of an intoxicated Julia Child, during this farcical attempt to make a fruitcake with what he acknowledges as plastic fruit, a batter, and plenty of rum that he frequently samples. The antics during this scene had the entire audience laughing throughout.
Tim Cleary portrays Santa Claus who makes an appearance on stage, and sings a duet with a child named Allison. Allison is portrayed by Grace Altenburger whose amazing singing voice suggests a very promising musical future.
The other children in the cast include Zachary Petrarca, Nichole Thomas, Julia Mehlin, Julia Thies, Gabrielle Saucier, Zoe Kindt, and Ian Kindt, all of whom excel in their roles, including singing, dancing, and making appropriate facial expressions for the situations they are in. They all clearly enjoy their roles on the stage, with performances that reflect hard work, determination, and self-discipline.
The show contains some masqueraded double entendre adult humor, but only during scenes in which the children are not on stage, and subtle enough that children in the audience would not likely be fazed by it. The positive messages, on the other hand, are clear to all, like it being better to give than receive, the need to show kindness to the less fortunate, and the power of love to cure feelings of loneliness.
I highly recommend NUNCRACKERS, which is scheduled to continue to run at the Seven Angels Theatre, in Waterbury, CT on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sundays through December 17. For times and tickets, please go to http://sevenangelstheatre.org/.