OGDEN — Nunsense is a long-time hit and an international sensation. With music, book, and lyrics by Dan Goggin, Nunsense was first produced in 1985 and ran for over ten years Off-Broadway. Although many theatre companies have mounted at least one production of Nunsense, Weber State University’s production (directed by Andrew Barratt Lewis) stands out with an outlandish cast and believable scenery and proves that humor is bigger when it comes from the more unlikely of places.
The premise of Nunsense is simple and ludicrous: most of the convent of the Little Sisters of Hoboken are accidentally killed when Sister Mary Julia, Child of God serves them some bad soup. A few sisters survived because they were across town that night playing bingo. They had enough money to bury 48 of the 52 deceased, but need to raise the rest of the money to bury the last four sisters who are now frozen in their freezer. The Reverend Mother (played by Mariana Villarreal Zambrano) decides to raise the funds through a variety show featuring her and four other sisters. Unfortunately, Reverend Mother accidentally gets high on some drugs in the middle of the show. Zambrano played a euphoric nun on a trip which was hilarious and almost blasphemous.
Although small and deemed an “understudy” by the Reverend Mother, Emma Leishman is nothing short of a star in her role as Sister Robert Ann. Her hard-edge upbringing and Brooklyn accent creates a character who is a riot and provided some of the best laughs of the night. With her role in the “Dying Nun” act and her wicked witch nun stunt, Leishman is an uproarious nun.
Sister Amnesia, who forgot who she was after she was hit on the head with a crucifix, was played by Abigail Ford. Her absentminded behavior filled with forgetfulness and “Nobody’s Home” jokes were well played. Ford’s performance of “So You Want to be a Nun,” playing both Sister Amnesia and the puppet Sister Mary Annette, was a fantastic comedy act with great timing and punch. However, her country singing was lacking in technique and refinement. (It was better that Sister Amnesia became a nun instead of a country singer.) Even with this flaw, she was one of my favorite characters of the night.
Sister Leo (played by Nora Waldrop) is a wonderful asset to the convent with her beautiful harmonizing and dancing. As a nun who dreams of becoming a famous ballerina too, her talent and technique were lovely. It is too bad her dances had to be in a nuns habit and not with a tutu. The second-in-command at the convent is Sister Hubert, played by Madison Rigby. Rigby is a talented actress with perfectly timed eye rolls and facial expressions. She definitely carries the night along and ends it on a high note with her powerful soulful rendition of ‘Holier Than Thou.’
Even though the cast is small with only five actresses, they filled the stage and commanded the audience’s attention throughout the evening. Production dance numbers were positively delightful and choreographed by Alicia Trump. Adding to the night was the live Mount Saint Helen’s Band, made up of Kenneth Plain, Samantha Allen, Hunter Jex, and Justin David Lord.
With Nunsense presented in the smaller black box style Eccles Theatre, scenic designer Cully Long created half of a basketball gym floor, complete with the a small stage with old velvet curtains. The tall ceilings in the room were surrounded with pillars, old pendant lighting, and Mount St. Helen’s school championship banners. With details like a messy bulletin board, trophies, and a flag, I really felt like I was in a Catholic school gymnasium instead of a theater. Lighting designed by Marley Porter created some fun and dramatic effects throughout the play. I especially liked the spotlights on the tap-dancing feet, the ending lights to “Playing Second Fiddle,” and the beautiful church window lighting in “Second Fiddle Reprise.”
Although the play has many jokes which are date and Catholic-centric, Lewis did update some of the jokes for a younger and Utah audience. I definitely enjoyed Weber State’s production of Nunsense and would recommend it for a wonderful night out. However, I did go to opening night to an almost sold out crowd. If you are looking into going, I would recommend to get tickets before going and get there early because it is general admission seating. Nunsense is a nonsense crowd-pleaser that promises a night of enjoyable fun to its audience.