by Shirley Lorraine
Powerhouse Nuns Pack a Punch in Ojai
The wildly popular musical Nunsense by Dan Goggin is now on stage at the Ojai Art Center Theater. Translated into numerous languages and spawning several equally successful sequels, Nunsense has won many awards over the years, and deservedly so. It does, however, require a strong and talented cast which director Tracey Williams Sutton has certainly supplied.
Nuns are on patrol in the aisles as patrons enter, greeting parishioners and possibly lapsed angels alike with hugs and smiles which sets the tone even before the lights go down.
The setting is incongruously that of the musical “Grease,” being staged by the teens of the fictional St. Mary’s parish. It seems that the nuns have a problem on their hands and need to stage an emergency talent show to raise funds to complete an urgent project, so they use what they have.
The Reverend Mother (Sindy McKay) explains the reason for the show they are about to perform. It seems that a slight mishap with a batch of soup felled most of the convent’s inhabitants resulting in quite a number of burials. Unfortunately, the monetary need proved more than the available funds and the remaining nuns (who were, luckily, not at the dinner table that fateful evening) must find a way to finish the job before the inspectors arrive.
Those left to take care of business include Sister Mary Hubert (Darrienne Lissette Caldwell), Sister Robert Anne (Dianne Miller), Sister Mary Amnesia (Anna Kotula), and Sister Mary Leo (Brianna Turner) as well as the Reverend Mother herself. Each has something unique to offer.
The Sisters are clearly having a blast singing, dancing and revealing secrets. Opening night, the audience participated fully when prompted and then some. Performed with no intermission, the Little Sisters of Hoboken display an astonishing array of talents performed with a seeming endless abundance of verve. If this energy could be harnessed, it could light up all of Ojai.
Sister Mary Amnesia cannot remember who she really is, having been recently clobbered by a falling crucifix. Oh, the irony.
Ms. Kotula, also credited with choreographing and co-producing the show, appears suitably dazed and confused throughout. Sister Mary Leo dreams of being the first nun ballerina. Ms. Turner displays her dancing skills both en pointe and sporting tap shoes. The sight of all the nuns tap dancing in unison is a treat. Ms. McKay gives the others a run for their money at every turn.
As Sister Robert Anne, Ms. Miller delights the audience with her surprise talent and Ms. Caldwell as Sister Mary Hubert displays her impressive vocal skills. There are many beautiful harmonies throughout and continuous opportunities for laughter.
Cleverly disguised in the background of the set is Father Pianus, AKA Andy Street, Musical Director, who even has a few lines! Well done, Father.
For a good time this summer, call (805) 640-8797, Ojai Art Center Theater, to reserve your seat for Nunsense, a musical production suitable for all ages, religions and genders. www.ojaiact.org.
Curtain is 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:00 matinees on both Saturday and Sunday. Runs through July 23.