Saint Paul Pioneer Press - Show Time -

-Jayne M. Blanchard

Dan Goggin, creator of the "Nunsense" trinity, chooses the Chanhassen cast to record the latest show album

Susan Goeppinger, who portrays a newcomer to “Nunsense,” Sister Wilhelm, felt left out because she couldn’t walk a tightrope or sing “Ave Maria” while juggling three cantaloupes and a hatchet. She also had never sung country music, realizing the musical “Oklahoma!” doesn’t count. “They wanted an old German, so that’s why they cast me,” she says glumly. “I felt Dan thought everyone was special except me so I went up to him and said, ‘What can I do to stand out?’ And Dan replied, “Try acting. That’ll be special enough.’ He’s a stinker, a real imp with a wicked sense of humor.”

The cast falls into a state of religious ecstasy when discussing Goggin, and not just because he chose them to record the original-cast album, which was being woofed and tweeted at Minneapolis’ Creation Audio last Monday. “He has been so good to us – taking us out to dinner, making sure we’re taken care of,” says Del Mastro. “He made all of our rosaries and pins our costumes to make us more perfect. Dan even sewed Richard’s microphone pack on, so it would be more comfortable. He’s unbelievable.”

Goggin praises the Chanhassen cast, saying, “Vocally, they’re so solid, and they have such a familiarity onstage you’d think they have been together forever. I thought of doing the cast album in New York, but, frankly, this group has earned it.”

Not that Goggin isn’t thinking of the future and of the bottom line. The other two “Nunsenses” have made him a wealthy man – a television special on cable’s A&E tripled the channel’s ratings and sold 35,000 “Nunsense” videos by phone.

For the upcoming national tour, Goggin is courting Brenda Lee to play Sister Amnesia. “She’s sweet and basically down-home. Brenda came to Chanhassen last week, and there was a sing-along, and she went right along with it. Can you imagine? Brenda Lee doing the audience sing-along?”

“Sister Amnesia’s Country Music Jamboree” forced Goggin to write more presentational theater and noodle with a new genre. “Country music has a jolliness to it – even if the lyrics are about heartbreak,” he says.

Goggin says the show has elements of “Hee-Haw” and “Laugh-In,” and for one of the songs, “Minnie Pearls of Wisdom,” there are actual price-tagged hats from the Minnie Pearl Museum.

Goeppinger says that while Goggin may seem like an angel of mercy, he’s also a perfectionist taskmaster. “His shows look so easy to do, but they’re not. His attention to detail is what makes it difficult to do. The success of ‘Nunsense’ is no accent,” she says, adding, “One day, we spent 1½ hours on one word, one line. That was a fun day.”

Timberman also points out that with “Nunsense,” wearing roomy religious garb means you have only your face and hands to act with. “And it’s hard to hear with all that headgear on.”

Costume handicaps aside, the cast is thrilled to be a part of theater history. “Danny told us that no matter who goes on tour, who does the TV special, we are the original cast who did the original-cast album,” says Long.