Review: Nunsense

Brenda Williams with Brooke Melton in Nunsense                            Photo by K. Talley Photography

By Larry Laneer
April 22, 2021

Well, we have to start somewhere bringing back theater. Lyric Theatre decided to go with the 1985 crowd-pleaser Nunsense. This show will not burden you with thought-provoking ideas or an intricate musical score. But theatergoers can hardly blame Lyric for it. We’re just relearning to walk, theatrically speaking.

Directed by Ashley Wells at the Water Stage, this production may look incomplete to fanatics of Nunsense and its several sequels. The show has been trimmed to a not-always-so-brisk 90 minutes without intermission. But it’s not that Lyric is defacing a great work of art here. It’s not like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

With book, music, and lyrics by Dan Goggin, the show is rife with corny jokes, ribald dialog, and a score of jaunty showtunes of the last century variety with country and gospel inflections and even a few bars of opera. It has pop culture references galore (some updated from 1985). Try to resist tapping your toes to the penultimate “Holier Than Thou.” Can’t be done.

In case you need a refresher, the show concerns nuns of The Little Sisters of Hoboken who are putting on a show to raise funds for some clean-up work after an unfortunate incident at the convent.

Wells has assembled a fine cast of well-known and new triple threats. None other than Brenda Williams anchors the ensemble as the Mother Superior. Williams has long been one of our most treasured artists, a saint of the theater, if you will. Ashley J. Mandanas always gives top notch performances. Cheyanne Marie, Brook Melton, and Viviana A. Goodwin are new to me, but all have strong voices and solid acting chops.

Matthew Sipress did the choreography. But how do you create dances for nuns in traditional habits? All you can see are their feet. Sipress goes retro with moves that would look vintage in 1985, including one tap dancing number. Lighting designer Fabian J. Garcia does his own choreography illuminating the trees across the pond from Water Stage. Scenic designer Kimberly Powers has decorated the stage with props for Grease. Why Grease is explained early in the show.

It’s not a deal killer, but the big disappointment in this production is the recorded soundtrack that accompanies the show in lieu of a live band. Theatergoers can cut Lyric some slack on this matter for a while. Pit bands are expensive; Water Stage presents challenges, although I bet if money were no object, Lyric would figure out a way to have musicians here; the show is being staged for greatly reduced audiences, which doesn’t help the finances. Lyric has been good about employing sizeable orchestras (West Side Story and Titanic in recent seasons). So, we’ll assume the soundtrack is a temporary measure, and when we’re back in the theaters, we’ll have living, breathing musicians accompanying the shows.

A professional production of Nunsense has not been done around here for a long time. For young theatergoers, this is a good chance to add it to their experience. For the rest of us, it’s a link back to normal.

Nunsense by Dan Goggin (book, music, lyrics)
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8:00 p.m. Fridays, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Saturdays, 2:00 p.m. Sundays, through May 9
Myriad Botanical Gardens Water Stage
301 W. Reno Ave.