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Nuns Are Dying to Have Fun in Dan Goggin’s Nunsense, Now Playing at TheatreFest 2018

N.C. State University Theatre's TheatreFest 2018 production of <em>Nunsense</em> stars (from left) Kathy Norris, Lynda Clark, Riki Dows, Brett Williams, and JoAnne Dickinson (photo by Ron Foreman)

N.C. State University Theatre’s TheatreFest 2018 production of Nunsense stars (from left) Kathy Norris, Lynda Clark, Riki Dows, Brett Williams, and JoAnne Dickinson (photo by Ron Foreman)

The Nunsense franchise must be huge, for it includes a whole line of greeting cards as well as six sequels to the original Nunsense, which N.C. State University Theatre is currently presenting as part of TheatreFest 2018. Dan Goggin is the creative genius behind these entertainments, writing music and lyrics, and creating one of the biggest Off-Broadway commercial successes (3,672 performances), according to Wikipedia.

TheatreFest 2018, presented in North Carolina State University’s Frank Thompson Hall in Raleigh, NC, produces the third of this summer’s fun filled shows, along with Deathtrap (May 31-June 10), and The 39 Steps (June 7-24). This is director John C. McIlwee’s last involvement with TheatreFest prior to retirement.

As always, McIlwee’s seasonal entertainment invites an appreciative audience who eagerly await each offering, and usually purchase most of the seats well before show nights. He never lets us down.

Nunsense is a loosely formed show, in which a small group of nuns, the only survivors of a cooking accident which poisoned to death the entire rest of the convent which had devoted its existence to serving lepers. The sisters buried all but four, and are now doing a fundraiser to raises funds to bury those four unfortunate sisters, whose bodies are currently stored in the freezer of the school where they used to work.

That will all be explained as the bevy of sisters dance, sing, and joke their way through the fundraiser, the show we, their audience, came to see. John McIlwee has assembled an excellent collection of artists to cavort and camp before us, make us laugh and giggle, and have a grand old time.

We are greeted as we enter to familiar music played from a piano lessons book. As it turns out musical director Catherine Hamner is an exceptionally talented pianist and supports the ensemble beautifully throughout the show. And Miranda Millang choreographs these five performers in a variety of whoopings-it-up and pretty non-liturgical frolics during the next two hours.

N.C. State University Theatre's TheatreFest 2018 production of <em>Nunsense</em> stars (from left) Kathy Norris, Lynda Clark, Brett Williams, Riki Dows, and JoAnne Dickinson (photo by Ron Foreman)

N.C. State University Theatre’s TheatreFest 2018 production of Nunsense stars (from left) Kathy Norris, Lynda Clark, Brett Williams, Riki Dows, and JoAnne Dickinson (photo by Ron Foreman)

To support the notion of an ad hoc fundraising show, the action occurs on the eighth graders’ set of Deathtrap, being done in the church basement of the Little Sisters of Hoboken. Scene designer Jayme Mellema takes the bow for this.

Kathy Norris as the Rev. Mother Regina tries to keep order to her order, but without much luck. Her reaction, after sniffing something she should not have sniffed is hilarious.

Sister Robert Anne is played with a wonderful New Jersey accent (tough as nails, too!) by Lynda Clark. Her physical antics, as only Clark can do, are perfect, and often side-splitting.

Riki Dows is superb as Sister Mary Hubert, and her version of “Holier Than Thou” is truly soulful.

Sister Mary Amnesia, who is named for having forgotten her real identity, is done with spirit by JoAnne Dickinson. Her number, “I Could Have Gone to Nashville” is a show stopper.

Brett Williams, as Sister Mary Leo, who wants to be a ballerina, camps the dying swan. Williams also does a marvelous take off of Sally Field as The Flying Nun.

Beat the heat — cool off at Thompson Hall and enjoy TheatreFest’s production of Nunsense and/or The 39 Steps, too, while you’re at it.

N.C. State University Theatre's TheatreFest 2018 production of <em>Nunsense</em> stars (from left) Riki Dows, JoAnne Dickinson, Lynda Clark, Brett Williams, and Kathy Norris (photo by Ron Foreman)

N.C. State University Theatre’s TheatreFest 2018 production of Nunsense stars (from left) Riki Dows, JoAnne Dickinson, Lynda Clark, Brett Williams, and Kathy Norris (photo by Ron Foreman)

SECOND OPINION: June 17th Raleigh, NC Chatham Life & Style review by Dustin K. Britt (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars): https://chathamlifeandstyle.com/performing-arts; and June 3rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article212217474.html.

N.C. State University Theatre presents NUNSENSE at 7:30 p.m. June 20-23 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. June 24 in the Titmus Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall, 2241 E. Dunn Ave., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607, on the NCSU campus.

TICKETS: $27 ($10 NCSU students, $17 non-NCSU students, $23 NCSU faculty and staff, and $25 seniors 60+), except all tickets $18 on Community Night (June 20th).

BOX OFFICE: 919-515-1100 or http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?organ_val=22089&event_val=NUNS.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-515-1100. 

SHOW: https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/nunsense/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/203941150384886/.

THEATREFEST 2018: https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/theatrefest-2018/.

PRESENTER: https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/, https://www.facebook.com/ncstateuniversitytheatre, and https://twitter.com/ncsutheatre.

VENUE: https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/plan-your-visit/.

MAPS/DIRECTIONS: http://maps.ncsu.edu/#/buildings/tps.

OTHER LINKS:

Nunsense (1985 Off-Broadway musical comedy): http://nunsense.com/ and http://nunsense.com/show-nun1.cfm (official web pages), https://www.samuelfrench.com/p/748/nunsense (Samuel French, Inc.), http://www.guidetomusicaltheatre.com/shows_n/nunsense.htm (The Guide to Musical Theatre), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/1443 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114017/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nunsense (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Dan Goggin (music, book, and lyrics): http://nunsense.com/author.cfm (official web page), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/dan-goggin-11750 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/3283 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0324647/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Goggin (Wikipedia).

John C. McIlwee (director and director of N.C. State University Theatre): https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/our-team/ (NCSU faculty bio) and https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100018658909234 (Facebook page).

REVIEWERS:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews