Celebrating the theater’s 25th anniversary with the show that was the impetus for starting Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, Nunsense is the perfect choice for a season opener. This production of Nunsense is so good that it’s a shame the Pope couldn’t attend it on his American tour. He would have howled with laughter. Though the Pope wasn’t there on opening night, many theater notables were in attendance including the creator of the Nunsense phenomenon Dan Goggin, Broadway star Marissa Perry, and award-winning actress Stephanie Zimbalist. It didn’t matter if the planets were in perfect position on opening night, because the stars on this stage were in perfect alignment.
That Semina DeLaurentis reprised her original off-Broadway role as Sister Mary Amnesia definitely adds a special ingredient to this production. It’s as if the magic of seeing a show for the first time rushed into the Waterbury–based theater with Semina capturing the original uniqueness of the show. It doesn’t matter if you saw the show before, because Semina and her super-talented cast make it new again.
As for Semina, she brought the house down with her performance. A great deal of her character’s charm is due to her use of facial expressions, which consistently capture a childlike innocence. Whether she is in the audience offering plastic statues of saints to quiz winners, singing solos that showed off her amazing voice, or playing ventriloquist with her sassy Sister Marionette, she continually wowed the audience.
That’s not to say that the rest of the cast wasn’t getting its fair share of laughs and wows. This reviewer has often said that this first Nunsense, which was followed by many sequels, is still the best of all of them. The plot revolves around the fact that one of the nuns, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidentally poisoned 52 of the sisters. The nuns didn’t have enough money to bury all of them, so they stuffed four of them in the freezer. Therefore, the premise for the show is a benefit to raise money for the additional burials.
Joyce Jeffrey as Sister Mary Regina, the Mother Superior of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, had audience members crying with laughter as she inadvertently got higher than a kite on drugs found in the convent. Jeffrey knows how to play the comic with perfect timing, but she also knows how to sing beautifully.
Trish “Vagnini” Torello, of WATR, plays second fiddle to Mother Superior as Sister Mary Hubert, but when it comes to belting out a tune, she’s second to nun or none – whatever. Also adding to the fun and talent roster is Cathy Wilcox Sturmer as Sister Robert Anne. Strumer has the perfect Brooklyn swagger to make her character a rough around the edges nun. Turning her habit’s headpiece into foreign variations of a nun was definitely a crowd pleaser, especially when she yodeled with her Swiss interpretation. That leaves Jillian Holt as Sister Mary Leo, who has all the grace that her character needs as a dancer.
Directed by James Donohue who also did costumes, with the notable Richard DeRosa as music director, the production moved along at a good pace. Daniel Husvar designed the set, which resembles an auditorium used for a production of Grease.
Overall, this a great opportunity to see a show with true star quality performances. It plays through Sept. 27. Box office: 203-757-4676
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]