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Hilarious “Nunsense” At Northport’s Engeman Theater

From left to right: Kristina Teschner, Inga Ballard, Gwendolyn F. Jones, Marie Danvers and Brittany Ross. Photo by Alan Pearlman.

The talented sisters of Nunsense, from left to right:
Kristina Teschner, Inga Ballard, Gwendolyn F. Jones, Marie Danvers and Brittany Ross. Photo by Alan Pearlman.

Nunsense is the perfect musical comedy for a summer day or night–it’s light and fun and full of great singing and dancing routines as well as laugh-out-loud comic surprises. This hilarious and memorable musical is at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater this weekend through September 8, 2013, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays also at 3:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

The Nunsense book, music, and lyrics are by Dan Goggin; the original Off-Broadway production opened December 12, 1985 and became the second-longest running off-Broadway show in history after The Fantasticks. The show has had more than 5,000 productions worldwide and been translated into 21 languages. Antoinette Dipietropolo, Director/Choreographer of Engeman’s Nunsense,  makes her directorial debut at Engeman, where she has previously choreographed Hairspray and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Jack Kohl is Musical Director/Piano-Conductor. Nunsense is produced by Richard T. Dolce, Engeman’s Producing Artistic Director, and the Managing Director is Kevin J. O’Neill. 

In this production, five nuns take over Engeman Theater; they are the five surviving Little Sisters of Hoboken. As the story goes, the Little Sisters of Hoboken discover that their cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, has accidentally  poisoned and killed all but five of the 52 Little Sisters of the convent with her vichyssoise soup. They discover that they need to raise funds for the burials of four more sisters. We learn that Mother Superior Mary Regina bought cell phones and an iPad with their funds from the sale of greeting cards and there was no money left to bury the remaining sisters. The five nuns decide to hold a variety talent show to raise money, while the deceased nuns remain on ice in the freezer. The Engeman stage is the perfect venue for their variety show, still set up from the previous Engeman production of South Pacific. Some props and the set are worked into the current Nunsense.

The five sisters of Hoboken participating in the talent show are: Reverend Mother Mary Regina, a former circus performer, played by Gwendolyn F. Jones; Sister Mary Hubert, the Mistress of Novices, played by Inga Ballard; a streetwise nun from Brooklyn named Sister Robert Anne, brilliantly performed by Marie Danvers; Sister Mary Leo, a novice who is a wannabe ballerina, played by Kristina Teschner; and the delightfully wacky Sister Mary Amnesia, the nun who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head, featuring Brittany Ross who has previously played the same role at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera House.

The variety show they put on features ballet and tap dancing, singing, and a hilarious audience quiz.

The Sisters explain in song how they got where they are today, originally working in a leper colony near France, but quickly leaving after some of the Sisters developed leprosy themselves (“A Difficult Transition”), and after the song, Sister Mary Amnesia quizzes the audience on the history of the Sisters. This technique of bringing the audience into the show works well and is thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.

“I have a prize for you just for being Catholic,” says Sister Mary Amnesia. “I bet you never thought it would pay off.”

Another question for the audience from Sister Mary Amnesia: “Do you think it was wrong for Reverend Mother to buy an iPad before burying the four sisters?”

The Quiz scene in Act 1 is followed by the Benedictine ballet dance by Sister Mary Leo. Next Srs. Hubert and Leo sing a very entertaining “The Biggest and the Best.” Always feeling like the second fiddle and never getting a leading role in anything, having left her acting career to become a nun, Brooklyn-born Sister Robert Anne sings “Playing Second Fiddle.”

More hilarious highlights include the puppetry, “So You Want to Be A Nun” performed by Sister Mary Amnesia and Sister Mary Regina’s story about her parents on the tightrope in “Turn Up the Spotlight.”

At the end of Act 1, the Reverend Mother, Sister Mary Regina, gets high on rush in “An Unexpected Discovery.”

One of the funniest performances of Act 2, Sister Robert Anne from Canarsie uses her habit to do impressions, including Princess Leia, Pocahontas, and Heidi. “I was a tough kid and I was always getting in trouble,” notes Robert Anne with her Brooklyn accent. Then, she is joined by Sisters Mary Leo, Mary Hubert, and Mary Amnesia in “Growing Up Catholic.”

This musical comedy is a memorable must-see production for anyone looking for some laughs in the heat of summer and who would enjoy the surprising comedic twists, but it’s particularly recommended for any Long Island Catholics who will “get” all the humor with no explanations required.

The talented sisters who don’t miss a beat are: Inga Ballard (Sister Mary Hubert) last seen in the Ragtime Concert at Lincoln Center, stage credits include The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Goodspeed Opera House and the Ragtime National Tour, and TV appearances include Law & Order CI and 30 Rock.  Marie Danvers (Sister Robert Anne) appeared on Broadway as Christine Daee in The Phantom of the Opera.  Other credits include House and Garden at the Manhattan Theater Club, Maria in West Side Story and Maria Mirelli in Lend Me A Tenor.  Gwendolyn F. Jones (Mother Mary Regina) has acting credits that include National and International tours of Nunset Boulevard starring Cindy Williams, Hair, 42nd Street, and Annie. Her Broadway, Off-Broadway and Regional credits include Chicago, Dear World, 42nd Street, and Mame. She also played Mrs. Claus for several seasons in New York City’s RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR. Brittany Ross (Sister Mary Amnesia) has previously played the role at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera House, directed by Creator, Dan Goggin. Ross has also appeared as Felicity on The American Girl Revue, Olive Ostrovsky in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (National Tour) and Essie in Parade. Kristina Teschner (Sister Mary Leo) can be seen this summer as Connie Pence on NBC’s Do No Evil. She has performed in numerous touring and regional productions.

Tickets are $55 and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, by visiting www.engemantheater.com, or at the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

 

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