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Phoenix Festival Theatre Nunsense

By • Mar 13th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Nunsense
Phoenix Festival Theatre
Chesapeake Theater-Harford Community College, Bel Air, MD
Through March 18th
2:05 with one intermission
$20/$10 Youth
Reviewed March 10th, 2012

Nunsense, with book, music, and lyrics, by Dan Goggin, is the second-longest running Off-Broadway show and has even more extended life through its many sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Nunsense brings the audience into a fundraiser put together by the Little Sisters of Hoboken. 52 nuns have tragically died from accidental soup poisoning. Unfortunately, a recent purchase of a blueray player has left the remaining nuns short on funds to bury the last four nuns, so they are currently resting in the convent freezer. To raise the needed money, five of the 19 surviving nuns are hosting this variety show: ex-circus performer Mother Superior Mary Regina (Laurie Starkey), second-in-command Sister Mary Hubert (Kim Brueggeman), streetwise Sister Robert Anne (Lauren Spencer-Harris), ballerina-nun Sister Mary Leo (Laura Pierpont), and Sister Mary Amnesia (Jacky Walsh), who cannot remember her real identity after a crucifix fell on her head.

Pheonix Festival Theatre’s production, at the helm of director John Desmone, knocks it out of the park! Though the show is nearly 30 years old and the script is quite dated, the message isn’t lost. Some lines and pop culture references are repolished and updated. And done well. There is something about PFT that from the moment you walk into the theatre you just feel and know you’re in for a great night of community theatre.

The beautiful set, designed by Marc Smith, is perfect from the spot-on representation of Mt. St. Helen’s School’s production of Grease to the exit signs of the gym and the fire extinguisher on the wall. Perfect props from on-stage donuts to Mother Superior’s clicker (which seemed to send shivers down some audience members’ spines) were the masterful handy work of Eyvo Johnson. Costumes, traditional but on-point, were coordinated by Laura Lang. A particularly wonderful example were Robert Anne’s Keds. Lighting designer Patrick Trzeciak creates a perfect balance between the appearance of a well-lit high school gym and the incorporation of diverse and creative specials and playful spotlights.

Once again, Bambi Johnson does a fabulous job with choreography that maintains traditional aspects of the production, while innovating and updating some great numbers. Musical Director Chris Rose perfectly delivers with the performer’s vocals and many challenging harmonies. He also conducts and plays piano in the intimate four-person orchestra. Though the show sounded great and all the musicians are talented in their own right, overall the band seemed to have trouble coming as one there were some timing and rhythm issues.

The five talented, versatile, stellar, silly, whacky, triple-threat actresses work their little habits off, from the first ten minutes of warm-up and adlibs in the audience to the final, fast-paced energetic “Holier Then Thou.” Laurie Starkey as Mother Superior delivers a perfectly timed, controlled, and downright pee-your-pants performance with a just-about-perfect Irish brogue and moments of fear for recovering Catholics. “A Word from Reverend Mother” is one of the highlights of the show. My eight-year old son, who loved the show, did not get the Janet Jackson reference. However, the rest of us did. Brilliant!

Kim Brueggeman is practically the poster child for a triple threat with true and honest moments every step of the way, from her kick-butt opening to “Tackle That Temptation With A Time Step” and a knock-out rendition of “Holier Then Thou.”

Lauren Spencer-Harris as the smart, streetwise Sister Robert Anne does quite well. Equipped with a beautiful, perfectly pitched belty voice, her rendition of “I Just Want To Be A Star” is vocally perfect. However, at times, she goes way overboard with her character, movements, and expressions. The role was already written quite big and colorful, so, if it was just pulled back a bit, it would have been more real.

Laura Pierpont as Sister Mary Leo is the youngest of the sisters and the actresses, and although the rest are quite more seasoned, Laura superbly holds her own with these veterans. She does beautiful point work on “Mornings At The Convent” and a great rendition of “The Biggest Ain’t The Best.”

Jacky Walsh as Sister Mary Amnesia practically steals the show, really without trying. She has a beautiful voice with an amazing range, a perfectly developed character, and great timing. She pulls back at so many moments that you can’t help to fall in love with her character and practically cheer when she nears the end of “I Could Have Gone To Nashville.”

The synthesis of these amazing performances, beautiful voices, ingenious dancing, great sets, perfect props, lights, costumes, etc… is the work of veteran director John Desmone. A thoughtful, entertaining, creative, hysterical, touching, experienced, and well-staged production awaits you!

Cast

  • Sister Mary Regina, Mother Superior: Laurie Starkey
  • Sister Mary Hubert, Mistress Of Novices: Kim Brueggemann
  • Sister Robert Anne: Lauren Spencer-Harris
  • Sister Marry Amnesia: Jacki Walsh
  • Sister Mary Leo: Laura Pierpont

Orchestra

  • Conductor, Piano: Chris Rose
  • Woodwinds: Helen Schlaich
  • Drums And Percussion: Lisa Wood, Nick Louge

Production Team

  • Company Manager/Producer: Larry Hensley
  • Director: John Desmone
  • Musical Director: Chris Rose
  • Choreographer: Bambi Jhonson
  • Technical Director: Jeff Kanyuck
  • Stage Manager: Amy Jo Smith
  • Set Designer: Marc Smith
  • Costume Coordinator: Laura Lang
  • Props Master: Eyvo Jhonson
  • Lighting Designer: Patrick Trzeciak
  • Sound Designer: Jeff Kanyuck
  • Spotlight Operators: Kristin Hessenauer
  • Light Board Operator: Patrick Trzeciak
  • Sound Board Operator: Charis Bartenslager
  • Construction Crew: Charis Bartenslager, Kristin Hessenauer, Kelleigh Pangratz, Patrick Trzeciak, Trevor Winter, Kayla Whisman

Disclaimer: Phoenix Festival Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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worked for twenty years as a professional actor and director, as well as worked a myriad of other theatrical production roles at various levels. In recent years, he served as Artistic Director/President of STROyKA Theatre in Washington, DC. Roman privately teaches acting, voice, and piano and serves as a consultant to various groups and schools. His primary role is stay-at-home dad and full-time college student. He also directs the Voices Unlimited Youth Choir at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air, MD.

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