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Tuesday, 02 July 2013 16:09

Time to get out of the habit

Written by Bob Wilcox
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The Details

  • Director: Matt Lenz
  • Dates: July 1-7, 2013

Have you ever seen "Nunsense"? Has anyone not seen "Nunsense" in one of its seven versions, 10,000 productions, or five DVDs over the last 30 years?

If you haven't seen it, you can see it now at The Muny, done, as the title says, “Muny Style.” If you have seen it, you may or may not want to bother. It's mostly the first version, with a few odds and ends added for the local crowd.

You'll probably never see a better Sister Robert Anne, the nun from the mean streets of Brooklyn who wants her own number in the show, than Beth Leavel. Or a better Sister Mary Amnesia than Tari Kelly, with a fine oblique vagueness and a terrific duet with Sister Mary Annette, the puppet that turns up on her hand. Or a better Sister Mary Leo, the novice who wants to praise God in dance – and does – than Sarah Meahl. As Sister Mary Hubert, the convent's second in command, Terri White scores a few zingers about her wish to rise higher in the pecking order. She takes over the stage in the grand pop gospel finale. Dee Hoty sometimes seemed a little off on opening night, but she's done such fine work here I can forgive her a slip now and then, and she may have been slightly miscast as the Mother Superior.

Sister Julia, Child of God, the convent's cook whose botulism-infected vichyssoise originally caused the trouble for the Little Sisters of Hoboken, doesn't usually appear in Nunsense. She shows up at The Muny to make a place for St. Louis native and TV star Phyllis Smith. Smith looked as if she would have been more comfortable at the office.

I greatly admire both Ken Page and Lara Teeter, but I'm not sure why they are on stage in "Nunsense Muny Style!" Page adds his powerful voice to the gospel finale, but he doesn't do much either drag or teutonic as Sister Mary Wilhelm. Teeter, as Father Virgil, gets stuck emceeing a fashion show of Catholic High School uniforms. Teeter endures it, and the young women pull it off with great aplomb. The number did thrill alums of the high schools represented.

The Youth Ensemble and the even younger St. Louis Strutters perform Teri Gibson's choreography with polished precision. Matt Lenz directed, and the original creator of "Nunsense", Dan Goggin, has been in town to supervise the production. Steve Gilliam's scenic design and Nathan Scheuer's projection design from last week's "Shrek" are recycled for "Nunsense Muny Style!", maintaining the tradition that the nuns perform on whatever set is left over from the last show done at their school. Michael Horsley is the musical director, and he also handles a few lines of dialogue very well.

I'm sure that folks who grew up going to Catholic school in the days when nuns wore full habits get something from watching nuns in full habit being silly that I, from the other side of the Reformation's Great Divide, don't. I did find the show amusing the first three or four times I saw various versions of it. But for me, now, whatever Muny Style brought to "Nunsense" did not make me happy to see it again.

Additional Info

  • Director: Matt Lenz
  • Dates: July 1-7, 2013

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