PROVO — On a weekend dominated by GDP-sized big budget films filled with superheroes and world domination, the Covey Center fights back with the most powerful agents they could find: nuns! Go ahead and laugh if you’d like, but facing an angry nun, wielding a knuckle-breaking ruler with decades of precise practice, and a hefty side of guilt would be enough to make even The Hulk second guess his choices—if he knows what’s good for him!
I was fortunate enough to take in Nunsense at the Cover Center for the Arts last Friday and came out of the small Black Box Theater with my soul uplifted and my toes tapping. Robinne Booth (serving at least double duty as director and Mother Superior Regina) has pulled together a very talented cast of devoted woman who have crafted a thoroughly enjoyable evening of entertainment. Booth herself was, as always, and absolute treat to watch. Her mastery of the stage is tangible and she has that “it” that makes her impossible to overlook.
Nunsense, with music, lyrics, and a script by Dan Goggin, is one of those shows that, being a selfish, self-absorbed performing man, never really caught my attention. My chances of being cast in this all-female show have always been iffy at best. But I realized Friday that I have been missing out on a terrifically entertaining show. There is so much room for actors, a director, and audience members to play and explore with together. Several of the performers had direct interaction with audience members, which led to a number of my favorite moments of the night.
As I first took my seat, I was a little worried that set designer Dan James had somehow gotten a hold of the wrong script, and no one noticed that the stage was perfectly set for a performance of Grease. Fortunately, James had done his work correctly, and that twist quickly became clear as the show began. Greg Duffin, musical director and performing in the role of Father Myopia, was a consistently funny addition throughout the show, as well as having done a fine job in teaching the cast some fairly complex harmonies.
During the first 25 minutes or so, I was extremely distracted and disappointed by the volume of the thumping music coming from the main stage downstairs. Apparently there was a youth dance concert happening concurrently, and it was honestly difficult to hear our performers over their bass lines. But, once that finished up, things improved drastically. The Covey Center’s Brinton Black Box is a difficult space sound-wise. Like most local theater troupes, the cast used a pre-recorded track as musical backup. However, in a small room like this, they’ve opted to not use mics on the performers, so it is nearly impossible to get the mix between the track and the voices right. I understand budgetary/space restrictions, but it was a detrimental to my enjoyment, and I found myself often straining to hear their voices clearly.
Nevertheless, there were wonderful character interactions throughout, especially the relationships of Mother Superior (Booth) and her right-hand helper, Sister Mary Hubert, played by Rachel Orme. They had a short-hand familiarity, whether performed or actual, that was very comforting, and hilarious to watch. Orme possesses a wonderful voice and was a joy to listen to.
Joni Newman is another cast member wearing several hats. As Sister Leo, the youngster of the cloister, Newman brought an excitable vivacity that was very contagious. She is a gifted dancer, and I was impressed with how she filled the cramped quarters with beautiful dance. Owing to her skill, no doubt, Newman was also responsible for choreography for the production, and she shined in fulfilling this responsibility. The dance pieces were very fitting and added a fun bounciness to the show.
Skye Cummins also deserves high marks in her turn as Sister Robert Anne, a formerly street-wise tough from New York City, who followed a higher calling. Cummins was hard not to watch, owing to her total command of the stage. Sister Mary Amnesia, played by Michelle McManus brought me several of the biggest laughs of the evening. Her voice was a little uneven on this night, but she worked through it quite well, and her character work more than made up for any short-comings.
There were portions of the show that lagged a bit, and others that were perhaps a bit less than fine-polished. Still, this was a very delightful production and I would certainly recommend that you support these hard working nuns.