‘Nunsense’ provides reliable laughs

A holy sister act took over the Footlight Players’ Theater Saturday night, and those nuns were having fun.

Jon-Michael Perry directed and choreographed the Footlight Players in their Piccolo Spoleto production of the 1985 musical comedy “Nunsense,” written by Dan Goggin.

The story is set during a benefit variety show put on by the Little Sisters of Hoboken in New Jersey after more than 50 nuns died of botulism from a bad batch of Vichyssoise. The remaining sisters can’t afford the funeral expenses, and so they turn to the stage to raise the funds.

When the original production premiered in 1985, it achieved wild success as the second-longest running show in Off-Broadway history.

The silly spectacle of dancing nuns will always get a laugh and a smile from an audience, and there were charming moments throughout the show, but the script had its cringe-worthy moments as well. Some of the lines were updated for 2016, including changing the Mother Superior’s purchase of a VCR into a plasma TV, but many of the jokes still felt either dated or like low-hanging fruit.

Mary Regina (Madelyn Knight) is the Mother Superior whose rotundity is the butt of several jokes. Knight’s acting was sometimes overreaching, but her operatic soprano singing was one of the highlights of the evening, along with her accidental inhalation of poppers (a chemical stimulant) found in the restroom.

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Sister Mary Amnesia (Shelly Goughnour) is the bubble-headed bimbo of the troupe, who seemed to have lost her common sense as well as her memory after a crucifix fell on her head. Goughnour proved endearing, especially when she brought out a hand puppet nun and delivered some of the funniest lines of the evening.

Sister Mary Leo (Jennifer Kliner) and Sister Robert Anne (Ingrid Santiago) played supporting roles. S.E. Coy shined as Sister Mary Hubert, demonstrating precise comedic timing and a rousing voice. Patrick Boyle provided all of the music on piano.

Nunsense isn’t Tony-worthy, but it’s good for a smile on a Sunday night. The musical has two acts, 16 songs and healthy dose of harebrained humor. It plays 4 p.m. June 1 and 2; 8 p.m. June 3, 5, 8, 10 and 11. For tickets and more information call (886) 881-4111 or go to www.piccolospoleto.com.

Lindsey O’Laughlin is a Goldring graduate student at Syracuse University.

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