The Muskegon Chronicle - 7/14/93

-Shirley Lemon

Sisters are superior in superb 'Nunsense II'

This could be the second coming we've all been waiting for. The Western Michigan's Cherry County Playhouse production of Dan Goggin's "Nunsense II" gave its audience a night to remember. The sisters are back and armed with zany songs, stories and, of course, more habit humor.

Since promotional advertising began listing JoAnne Worley in the starring role, West Michiganders have been anxiously waiting to catch a glimpse of this bubbly comedienne. The wait was worthwhile. Worley plays Mother Superior with a restrained yet powerful punch. Gone are the exaggerated faces, raucous laughter and finger in the cheek, replaced with a fine sense of comedic timing and the ability to work in an ensemble.

Worley shines in her solo musical numbers. Unique in her tone quality, she nonetheless brings down the house in the first act with "Look, Ma, I Made It." She begins the song in a lower tessitura, reminiscing about her days in the circus family highwire act and finishes it with a reprise of "Turn On the Spotlight" from the original "Nunsense." The audience is treated to a glimpse of the "Laugh-In" JoAnne Worley during Act II's commercial for the "Catholic Guide to Gift Giving," Her signature laugh and exaggerated facial expressions work well in this bit of shtick.

"NUNSENSE II .. THE SECOND COMING ...," written and directed by Dan Goggin, presented by Western Michigan's Cherry County Playhouse at the Frauenthal Theater in Muskegon, scenic design by Barry Axtell, lighting design by Paul Miller, musical direction by Michael Rice, staged and choreographed by Felton Smith, production stage manager Paul J. Botchis, orchestrations by Michael Rice and David Nyberg.

The Reverend Mother .. JoAnne Worley
Sister Mary Hubert ...,........... Mary Gillis
Sister Mary Robert Anne ........ Lin Tucci
Sister Mary Amnesia ......Jeanne Tinker
Sister Mary Leo ........... Michele Ragusa
Sister Mary Sebastian ........ Teri Gibson

While it is not crucial to have seen "Nunsense I," to understand this production, author Dan Goggin uses Act I to reiterate many of the musical ideas from the first show. Sister Hubert gives a brief but fast rendition of the "Nunsense I" storyline and the sisters begin their thank-you show from the Mount Saint Helen's gymnasium. The 'sister' show is interrupted by Gestapo Franciscan nuns claiming the Hoboken sister's prize money and Sister Mary Amnesia If this isn't enough, Sister Julia Child of God is arrested for "nun-handling" poultry. Mother Superior and Sister Hubert turn water into Japanese saki and Elvis is sighted in the Frauenthal Theater. The cast remains the same as the original, with an extra sister, Sister Sebastian, thrown in to fill out the production numbers.

JoAnne Worley plays Mother Superior with a restrained yet powerful punch. Gone are the exaggerated faces and raucous laughter, replaced with a fine sense of comedic timing.

Mary Gillis as Sister Hubert holds her own with Mother Superior. She is short in stature, but fills the stage with a larger-than-life quality. She is extremely likeable and portrays the second-in-command with a penetrating wit. Gillis handles the demands of Sister Hubert's character with versatility and experience.

Another standout in the crowd is Sister Mary Amnesia, Jeanne Tinker. From her slightly off-balance walking style to her dazed facial expressions, Tinker captures the very essence of the not-quite-normal nun. She performs one of the most powerful songs in the show, Act II's "No One Cared Like You." There were many tears on and off stage at the conclusion of that number.

Sister Robert Anne, Lin Tucci, is the epitome of the street-talking, New Jersey nun. Her characterization is her strong suit but she also does a credible job with her solo musical performances.

Michele Ragusa, Sister Mary Leo, has an accomplished singing voice and a bright radiant face. She is a fine addition to this strong cast.

Barry Axtell's set is colorful and portrays the concept of the high school gym-itorium. The use of the second story adds dimension and helps fill the cavernous stage area. This production was staged well for this theater. However, I still prefer a smaller, more intimate theater where the audience and cast have a chance to develop a rapport.

The sisters and the sequel are superb. Evening shows continue through Saturday at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday. This six-person cast promotes the idea "The Biggest Still Ain't the Best." Say amen, Sisters!