Variety - 1/22/86


Off-Broadway Review

Nunsense Theatrical Co., in association with Joseph Hoesl & Bill Crowder, presentation of a musical comedy in two acts written and staged by Dan Goggin, originally presented by The Baldwin Theater. Musical staging/choreography, Felton Smith; setting, Barry Axtell; lighting, Susan A. White; musical direction, Michael Rice; general manager, Roger Alan Gindi; 'stage manager, Trey Hunt; publicity, Shirley Herz Associates. Opened Dec.' 12, '85 at the Cherry Lane Theater, N.Y.; $22 top weeknights, $25 weekends. Cast: Christine Anderson, Vicki Belmonte, Semina De Laurentis, Marilyn Farina, Suzi Winston.


Originally reviewed as "The Nunsense Story" as a Unit Review in 1984 when it played the Duplex nitery in Greenwich Village, this irreverent and hilarious spoof has developed into a two-act musicomedy at the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theater, where it deserves to continue indefinitely. Relaxed Catholics should howl, but the show is geared to appeal to other audiences as well.

Excellent changes have been made in the crossover from nitery to legit presentation. There no longer are any dull moments which previously slowed down the zany momentum. Also, the two male roles have been turned over to women, retaining the original five-member cast.

Brilliantly conceived by Dan Goggin, who also wrote the music and clever lyrics (the original had a book by Steve Hayes), the story has been somewhat expanded. Basically it still concerns five nuns from Hoboken trying to raise the rest of the necessary cash to bury the remaining four of the 52 nuns who died of botulism from eating vichyssoise, prepared by the convent chef, Sister Julia, Child of God. The five miraculously escaped the same fate with an invitation on that fateful evening to play bingo at another parish.

While keeping the departed nuns in the convent's deep freeze, the quintet busy themselves with putting on a musical to secure the burial money. Assisting them is Sister Julia, who intends to peddle a cook book featuring some of her best recipes, one of which is barbecued spareribs St. Joan. The other nuns quickly discourage the idea.

Of the original nitery cast, only Marilyn Farina remains in the role of the Mother Superior. Farina is a deft comedienne and continues to dominate the show with a forceful presence and slick comedy timing that has the audience guffawing so often that some of her dialog gets lost.

Inspired casting of the other nuns features Vicki Belmonte as Farina's critical sidekick, Suzi Winson as a talented ballerina, and Christine Anderson as a perennial understudy yearning to become a star. A candidate for the comedy find of the current off-Broadway season is tiny, spunky Semina De Laurentis as Sister Mary Amnesia. She also has a lovely legit soprano that evokes enthusiastic response.

The show has been skillfully staged by Goggin, with effective musical staging and choreography by Felton Smith, suitable scenery by Barry Axtell, appropriate lighting by Susan A. White, and topnotch musical direction by Michael Rice.