BWW Review: NUNSENSE Is One Helluva Holy Romp At Milwaukee Repertory Theater
It's a hoot! The answer to your prayers! Five nuns on stage, four in the freezer!
Raising hell since its Off-Broadway debut in 1985, Nunsense brings "the humor of the nun" to the Milwaukee Rep's Stackner Cabaret. With dynamite singing, a pinch of puppetry, the tip-tap of time steps, and a hefty dose of soul, it's no wonder this musical comedy is the second-longest-running Off-Broadway show. This one's good old-fashioned fun -- whether or not you are or were raised Catholic. (But probably even more so if you are or were.)
The loose storyline of Dan Goggin's Nunsense -- for which he wrote the triple threat of book, music, and lyrics -- is that five nuns from the Little Sisters of Hoboken are putting on a musical revue to raise money after their convent was nearly wiped out by some accidentally-lethal soup courtesy of Sister Julia, Child of God, the resident chef. Luckily, the remaining ragtag group of five nuns are immensely entertaining and so is the show they put on.
First up is the Mother Superior, played by Melody Betts. Her claims to fame include John Legend's Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE, as well as Becky/Norma in both the Broadway production and First National Tour of Waitress. An impressive resume, and her performance lives up to the hype.
Mother Superior's sidekick is Lachrisa Grandberry's Sister Hubert, Mistress of Novices. Though Nunsense marks her Milwaukee Rep debut, Grandberry is no novice to the local theater scene. An alum of Wisconsin Lutheran College, she's performed everywhere from First Stage to Skylight Music Theatre, Northern Sky to Black Arts MKE. Grandberry is radiant, her voice a low purr that then erupts into a mighty roar.
Together, the duo of Betts and Grandberry bring enough soul to inspire an amen! or two from the audience. Their harmonies in Act Two's "Just a Coupl'a Sisters" highlight each performer's unique tone, somehow made even more sensational when featured side-by-side.
Sister Mary Leo, young and meek with a secret dream to be the first nun ballerina, is brought to life by Candace Thomas, returning to the Rep where she started out as an Emerging Professional Resident in the 2016/2017 season. Sweet-voiced and charming, Thomas brings personality that's endearing and cute as a button.
As our fourth nun in the lineup, Milwaukee Rep favorite Kelly Faulkner is back in the cabaret as Sister Robert Anne. Robert Anne is Brooklyn born and rather rowdy, therefore the part requires charisma, humor, and heart -- all of which Falkner nails, living up to the expectations of her fans. She's one you can count on to deliver on theatricality.
Rounding out the fab five is (dare I say?) crowd-favorite Veronica Garza as Sister Mary Amnesia. As her name implies, this nun's memory is none. Garza is subtly but consistently laugh-aloud funny, delivering everything from nuanced glances to an absurdly hilarious puppet interlude with comedic instincts that can't be taught. Under Mary Amnesia's watch, a pop quiz has never been so fun. Answer correctly, and you too could win a prayer card of an obscure saint! As if her comic prowess wasn't enough, Garza's voice is full of wonderful surprises and veritable vocal gymnastics. (Yep, I'm fangirling here.)
Put 'em all together, and these five women bring incredible energy to the Milwaukee Rep. Their big voices tear through the Cabaret with dynamite chemistry to boot. The whole thing is a can't-miss romp!
Photo credit: Michael Brosilow