Review: NUNSENSE at Theatre South Playhouse

This thrilling, funny, and thoroughly entertaining production marks the return of professional theatre to the Dr. Phillips theatre

By: Feb. 12, 2022
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Review: NUNSENSE at Theatre South Playhouse What can be better than revisiting an old favorite? Whether you are reading a book again for the hundredth time, watching a favorite movie that always puts you in a good mood, or listening to music you've spent your whole life jamming to, the familiar can be quite comforting and uplifting. Such is the case for me when I get to take in a production of a favorite show - something that has long been a staple in my musical theatre lexicon - and that gives me the chance to check in with old friends and experience a new take on a piece. This is how I approached the latest production of Dan Goggin's hit musical NUNSENSE at Theatre South Playhouse. The classic musical (the second longest-running off-Broadway show in history) continues to surprise and delight, with a simple, yet hilarious premise that still has audiences rolling in the aisles almost 40 years after its premiere. And, by offering NUNSENSE as its official return to professional theatre, Theatre South Playhouse, in Dr. Phillips delivers a hilarious, perfectly conceived and executed, rollicking good time.

For those who have not experienced the hilarity that NUNSENSE has to offer, the play-within-a-play is performed by five of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who are staging a fundraiser due to a recent tragedy that has rocked the convent. Their chef, Sister Julia, Child of God, served some bad vichyssoise soup, killing 52 nuns. The surviving sisters raised enough money to bury 48 of them but ran out of cash (thanks to a controversial purchase by the Reverend Mother), leading them to stage a variety show to raise the funds for the remaining four funerals. Not everything goes to plan (which provides some of the funniest moments of the night) but each of the sisters has a chance to "shine in their own way", proving to the audience by the end of the show why NUNSENSE is truly "habit-forming".

Review: NUNSENSE at Theatre South Playhouse Dan Goggin's book, lyrics and music hold up well for a show that has not only had an almost 40-year history but has also spawned several additional theatrical escapades of the Little Sisters. The script in the Theatre South Playhouse production has been updated a bit to ensure cultural references remain timely (and funny) allowing the show to feel fresh and relevant, and, as always, downright funny. Director Tom Vazzana, who has a long history with NUNSENSE, delivers a faithful and carefully crafted production that feels much like I imagine it did in its early years off-Broadway. Vazzana's staging is simple, yet effective, and his choreography is creative while staying true to the content.

Review: NUNSENSE at Theatre South Playhouse As with any production of NUNSENSE, the success of the evening hinges upon the five women embodying the Little Sisters of Hoboken, and in Theatre South Playhouse's production, they are all absolutely heavenly. As the Reverend Mother, Andrea Canny is hilarious, playing Sister Mary Regina as stern, but lovable and with facial expressions that tell whole stories in one glance and comic timing that is near perfect. As the Mistress of the Novices, Sister Mary Hubert, Virginia Roebuck plays "second fiddle" to Ms. Canny's RevMo quite well and shows off amazing pipes in her showstopping closing number "Holier Than Thou". As Sister Robert Anne, Hillary Brooke (also Theatre South Playhouse's founder and artistic director) gives a nuanced and thoroughly enjoyable performance as the streetwise sister with a heart of gold. Ms. Brooke is in her element delivering Sr. Robert Anne's rousing "I Just Want to Be a Star" and cracks the audience up with her antics throughout. Tay Anderson is hilarious as the forgetful but loveable Sr. Mary Amnesia (who doesn't remember her real name), and shows off an amazing range of talent (from operatic soprano to country-western twang). Finally, Kristie Geng's, Sister Mary Leo, the novice, is enthusiastic, sweet, and talented as she dances her way to becoming the world's first Nun ballerina. And while each of these women is stellar on their own, they truly shine when performing together, delivering tight harmonies, strong dancing, and great comedy.

As for the remaining creative team, Justin Smolik does a great job accompanying the Little Sisters (and has clearly done a wonderful job as music director - as demonstrated by the top-notch delivery of the cast.) The costumes ("good habits") by Nicolas Jay and World Gate Entertainment are simple but effective, Bekah James' lighting adds an appropriate amount of drama and splash, and Wendell Alberto's sound supports the show well.

Overall, Theatre South Playhouse's NUNSENSE is a thrilling, funny, and thoroughly entertaining production - one that shouldn't be missed. The cast is stellar, the production values excellent and the atmosphere electric as professional theatre returns to the small but mighty theatre company. And judging by the reaction from the crowd, I am not the only one looking forward to the next opportunity to take in a wonderful Theatre South Playhouse production.

NUNSENSE, presented by Theatre South Playhouse, runs through February 20th. Tickets range from $25 to $35. Performances take place at Theatre South Playhouse which is located in The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, 7601 Della Drive, Suite #15, Orlando, FL 32819. Tickets can be purchased by visiting https://teachtix.com/tsplayhouse. For more information about Theatre South Playhouse visit https://www.theatresouthplayhouse.org/

All Photos by Theatre South Playhouse



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