BWW Review: MAS THEATRE'S NUNSENSE JAMBOREE FUSES HEART, COMEDY, CHARM OF DAYS PAST at Carrollwood Cultural Center
On Thursday night, director Aaron Washington took us to church. Nunsense Jamboree, the third in the series, combined the comedic influences of Laugh-In, silly jokes, a puppet nun, and crafty innuendos, five outstanding voices with an adorable set created by Paul Berge at Carrollwood Cultural Center. MAS Theatre captured the authentic charm of a country-western jamboree - like the kind you'd see set up at the fairgrounds. All that was missing was a hand raised, waving in praise and meat on a stick. I also had flashbacks of Sunday sermons with my grandma, with much better music provided by Mary Jo Hahn, Rusty Wirt, Wink Warren, and Valerie Frege.
This was a slice of old-school Americana, where Minnie Pearl was funny, Dolly Parton was beloved, Barbara Streisand was divine, and Patsy Cline was worshipped.
Sister Mary Amnesia, who regains her memory to discover she's a former country singer, is on her promotional tour for her album "I Could've Gone to Nashville," and we're all invited.
Nunsense Jamboree is filled with silly one-liners and toe-tapping, where the stage is the entire space. The cast interacts with us for a fast-paced auction and a song made up of all of Patsy Cline's hit, where we trilled, "We know that somewhere up in heaven, you're a saint, Patsy Cline!"
Despite live music sometimes overpowering the singers and minor tech issues, the caliber of talent in this show was superior, overflowing with personality. Typically one voice stands out above the others, but in this production, the cast of Jessica Jax (Sister Mary Amnesia), Ashley Ryan Lord (Sister Mary Leo), Suzy Rayburn (Sister Mary Wilhelm), Erin Ruska (Sister Robert Anne), Craig Ruska (Father Virgil) was equally matched. Each character had the opportunity to showcase their incredible pipes as well as blend heavenly together.
Besides having a gorgeous voice, I must call out Ashley's impressive roping skills. One of my favorite songs in the production was a duet with Ashley and Suzy, "Seven A.M. in Phoenix." The high notes these ladies can hit are astounding. The giggle-giver in the musical was definitely Erin's puppetry and "Play a Country Enut," a song about playing a country song backward. Craig's lively performance in "A Good Book" with Ashley was enjoyable to watch. I did not expect that particular book. I simply adored Jessica's "Everyday of the Week is a Saturday," an utterly relatable song about doing what you love. "Everyday of the week is a Saturday when you're doing what you choose, Monday morning never comes when you ain't got workday blues...."
If you're looking for a thinking (wo)man's drama, this isn't it. This show has a whole lotta' heart and fun choreography by Aaron and Ashley. If you're seeking a country-western musical escape from living in volatile reality-TV, this is a sweet bit of fluff - in the right way - a place where you can sing and clap along and remember rootin' tootin' relics of days gone by.
Nunsense Jamboree runs now through Sunday. Tickets are available at https://www.facebook.com/events/636222586867811/