Pioneer Press -

-Joe Rossi

Heaven Sent

Swing your sister 'round and 'round. Throw that hymnal to the ground. Bless, right; bless, left; bless, right, bless, left. Genuflect your partner right now. Forget the pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Sister Amnesia and her fellow brides of Christ have journeyed to that most sacred of places, Nashville, to complete the trinity of "Nunsense" musicals.

"Sister Amnesia's Country Music Jamboree" finds the Little Sisters of Hoboken far from their New Jersey convent home. The wimpled ones - plus Father Virgil Manly Trott (Richard Long) of the Trott Family Singers - are on the road again, promoting Sister Amnesia's unexpectedly boffo country-music album.

The genesis of "Nunsense 3" was equally serendipitous. "I had these three country songs I had written and went to Warner Bros., who record all the 'Nunsense' albums, and asked if they could use them for a demo tape to send to country- music singer," says Dan Goggin, "Nunsense" creator and director of the third incarnation, which receives its world premiere at Chanhassen starting Friday.

A Warner Bros. executive suggested Sister Amnesia record the demo. "So then I started thinking: Why don't we have Sister Amnesia go on a promotional tour?"

And "Nunsense 3" was born. The major glitch was that Goggin had only three songs and an idea. "I spent the summer glued to the piano," he says. "My friends thought I was crazy to sell Chanhassen on a show that was in such a primitive stage."

However, Chanhassen shouted "Hallelujah" at the chance to do a world premiere, especially of the sinfully lucrative "Nunsense" franchise. "Chanhassen has a ready made shop - with costumes, sets, musicians. And I had such a great experience with the other two 'Nunsenses,'" Goggin says "And there's such a great talent pool in Minnesota, and best of all, no egos, no divas."

Goggin originally planned on casting out of New York and Chicago, but hired local performers straight from the first audition. "He cast us the very same day he auditioned us," says Tinia Mouldier, who plays Sister Leo, the Marie to Father Trott's Donny. "Dan said that once that happened to him, and he always wanted to return the favor to another actor."

Long did not even intend to portray a priest from the Opryland order, but was playing piano for the audition when Goggin asked him to try out. "I sang backup for Susan's (Goeppinger) Reba McEntire song, and before I knew it, I was in the show."

For the audition, Goggin requested the actors sing two country songs - uptempo and ballad - prepare a monologue and display an unusual talent. Angela Timberman, who plays Sister amnesia, twirls a baton and is an auctioneer.

Tinia Moulder executes rope-twirling tricks, while Deborah Del Mastro (Sister Robert Anne) plays the trumpet. And what about Long? "He's the body - the first man in 'Nunsense' history. That's what makes him special," jokes Timberman.