Nonetheless, the popular musical is a fun night out in Colorado Springs
A full house packed the auditorium of the Westside Community Center, Funky Little Theatre Company’s new and third home in Colorado Springs since its start in 2016. With a goal to bridge the gap between professional and community theatre, Nunsense was clearly on the amateurish side in this, its first foray into musical theatre.
The plot is but a backdrop for the five actors, posing as atypical nuns delivering tart quips of a clerical slant. Being or being raised Catholic (and needing an open mind!) only adds to the humor of a well-sung musical, expertly cast and choreographed but somewhat lacking in a discernible storyline that still delivers ample laughs.
The Little Sisters of Hoboken, NJ, have lost most of their convent to an accidental food poisoning by one of their own. They are holding a fundraiser at the Mount Saint Helen’s School auditorium — which is distractingly set up for the school’s musical Grease — to pay for burials of the deceased nuns who are currently on ice in the kitchen’s deep freeze. Nothing is sacred here as the five surviving nuns conspire to stage a variety show fundraiser with the house as the unknowing parishioners.
The Reverend Mother (played with great credibility by Jonathan Eberhardt) shares “her” backstory as a former circus performer who delightfully cannot resist the spotlight. A familiar face on local stages, Eberhardt excels at the physicality of farce. When not on stage, this larger-than-life talent has worked behind the scenes as a professional theatrical hair and makeup artist affiliated with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center since 2000.
As Act One opens, the audience is introduced to each sister and their campy origin stories which include their shared gig working in a French leper colony before returning stateside. Ready yourself: only a musical comedy with Catholic undertones could get away with leper humor.
Each nun takes center stage with humorous tales that that eventually land them in devout lives of service to the Almighty. The convent’s second-in-command, Sister Mary Hubert (Brandi Blackwood Lowe) reveres rules and dignity but has her own moments of comical irreverence. By day, Blackwood is a Colorado Springs fine artist, exercising her performance gene on occasion to the benefit of local audiences.
Meggan Hyde, regularly performing improv with Stick Horses, has the show’s best pipes as streetwise Sister Robert Anne. She nails a tough Brooklyn persona belting out her youth as a hooligan before finding her way to the sisterhood.
Novice Mary Leo, played with refreshing naivete by Anna Alai, is a Baltimore transplant to Colorado with a dinner theatre background. This ethereal sister dreams of being the world’s first nun ballerina as she prances across the small stage with grace and agility.
Cara Marshall is delightfully wacky as Sister Mary Amnesia who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head. A regular on Funky stages, this sister’s history includes dreams of becoming a country western singer until she found her true calling. In one of the show’s best moments, Marshall introduces the audience to her sidekick, a bawdy, foul-mouthed puppet who verbalizes the downsides of life in a nunnery.
Nothing is sacred in this combination farce/musical as the play pokes fun at Catholicism on multiple fronts. Case in point: the humor in the incessant Mary moniker — including that of the puppet Sister Mary- Annette. Get it?
There are madcap dance routines, ensemble numbers and rowdy exchanges as the five bungle their way toward resolution of their predicament. Buzzing about are small “student” mime stagehands who move props and amusingly interact with the sisters in plaid Catholic skirts.
Without live musical accompaniment, the piped-in music almost drowns-out the strong vocals of the actors. Volume adjustments could be made to future musical pursuits for Funky. Then again, maybe it’s all part of the schlocky “show” the nuns are attempting.
As the second act winds down, miraculously Sister Amnesia saves the day in an unexpected turn-of-events. It is an occasion to rejoice and a fabulous finale as the nuns celebrate their good fortune with a rousing gospel act that brings the house to their feet.
Nunsense scores in this musical with vocals and staging — albeit its physical constraints and a musical whose plotline seems obscured. It is a decent show well worth the modest ticket cost and the feel-good of supporting local community theatre that is, gratefully back!