NUNSENSE to Open SCERA Indoor Season on September 16

Oh, what to do, what to do. Sister Julia, Child of God, has accidentally poisoned 52 nuns in the convent who die after consuming her botulism-laced vichyssoise. Heavenly hilarity ensues when the five remaining nuns must find a way to raise enough money to bury their beloved and dearly departed sisters.

Thus begins a Hail Mary of fun and frolic with the musical comedy, "Nunsense," which spoofs the aftermath of death by broth, and launches the 2016-2017 Indoor Season at SCERA Center for the Arts.

Director Michael Carrasco says, "This really it is a show that aspires for little more than to have you giggling, laughing and rolling on the floor. Fun is the name of the game here. I think it's safe to say we can offer a 100% laugh out loud guarantee."

"Nunsense" will open Sept. 16 and continue with Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances through Oct. 8. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. at the SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S. State St., Orem.

"Nunsense" has become an international phenomenon and provides a tour-de-force for five actors strong on acting, singing, comedy and dancing skills. Leading the cast is Allison Books, who alternately charmed and horrified audiences as Ursula in Disney's "The Little Mermaid" this past summer at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre.

"She drives and leads the cast," he says. "Her audition was a no brainer. She killed her cold reading and had all of us in stitches. She has a powerful voice and plays this role charmingly with an Irish accent. Allison placed first in the National Association of Teachers in Singing Competition two years in a row. It was pure joy casting her."

He says the other four women, however, are also strong, engaging performers who have significant soloes in the musical. They include Shelly Stewart Truax as Sister Mary Hubert, mistress of the novices and second in command; Shaylia Johnson as would-be ballerina Sister Leo; Mariah Hatch as Brooklyn-raised and street-smart Sister Robert Anne, and Chelsea Lindsay as befuddled Sister Mary Amnesia, who lost her memory after a crucifix fell on her. She isn't really even sure whether she is a nun. Her "mini me" is a puppet nun, designed by Nat Reed, appropriately named Sister Mary Annette.

As the story begins, the sisters have raised most of the burial money by creating a series of nun greeting cards, but four are still on ice in the freezer. That's because Mother Superior bought a plasma TV screen, not realizing they would be short. They decide to stage a talent and variety show to raise the remaining money and commandeer a junior high school stage that had been prepared for a production of "Grease." In time, the nuns solve their dilemma, but it ends up involving Nashville, the Publishers Clearing House, a scene called Baking with the B.V.M. (Blessed Virgin Mother) - and even an audience quiz.

"These sisters are hilarious," Carrasco says. "They all love each other, but they certainly reveal their human sides. Sister Mary Hubert would like to be Mother Superior, so there is a bit of jealousy and competition. The others want to showcase their talents, whether than means dangling from a high wire and twirling across a stage."

Tap dancing also has a role in the show, and Carrasco decided to add a new element by having the nuns put their heads and arms through the kind of painted boards you can see at fairs and carnivals. Carrasco will have them dance with their hands in a whimsical twist on the song "Tackle That Temptation With A Time Step."

Other songs include the gospel showstopper "Holier Than Thou," "We've Got to Clean Out The Freezer," "I Just Want To Be A Star," "Nunsense is Habit Forming," "I Could Have Gone to Nashville," Turn Up The Spotlight" and more.

Dan Goggin, who wrote the book, lyrics and music, was raised by nuns and used some of the funny things he saw as a boy to create many of the scenes. "We tend to take nuns so seriously," Carrasco adds, "but they are regular human beings, just like everyone else. Although the musical is exaggeration, it is done lovingly and with a lighthearted touch."

Assisting Carrasco are set designer M'Liss Tolman, light designer Marianne Ohran, costume designer Kelsey Seaver, choreography by Jillian Vanderstel, music director Brandalee B. Streeter, and Danielle Berry, stage manager.

Reserved seat tickets at $12 for adults and $10 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older are available at www.scera.org, by calling 801-225-ARTS, in person at the main office, open 10am-6pm weekdays and Saturdays from 12Non-6pm, or at the door 30 minutes prior to the show.

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