Grand Rapids Press - 5/07/05

-Sue Merrell

‘Nunsense’ Vegas Revue featuring
Georgia Engel hits jackpot

Praise the Lord and pass the sequins! Those crazy Sisters of Hoboken have gone Vegas! Playwright Danny Goggin has hit the jackpot with “Nunsensations: The All-New Nunsense Vegas Revue,” which debuted Saturday at Saugatuck’s Mason Street Warehouse Summer Theatre. This roll of the nutty nuns dice adds a triple match—costumes, sets, and choregraphy—to Goggin’s winning variety show recipe.

More than feathered fans and headdresses tickled Saturday’s audience kicking off the theatre’s third season and the “Nunsensations” debut featuring television’s Georgia Engel.

Much of the show is standard “Nunsense” fare: Nuns in black and white habits pass among the audience before the show with some good-natured proselytizing. A selection of tried-and-true jokes are shuffled into a deck of Goggin’s cockeyed church chuckles. And the song-and-dance routines are interrupted by a few convoluted calamities.

But instead of a high school gym with makeshift props, this is a flashy Vegas show with an on-stage band and habit haute couture. Glittery top hats, a cowboy hat, colorful sequined collars—all worn with wimple.

Engel is billed as the guest star with the name-in-the-news appeal of her current role on television’s “Everybody Loves Raymond.” But like all “Nunsense” shows this is an ensemble production with five strong actresses carrying equal weight on stage.

Goggin who directed the show has made good use of Engel’s angelic face and comic expressions. She portrays frustrated ballerina Sr. Mary Leo, the same role she played a year ago when the All-Star 20th Anniversary tour of “Nunsense” visited Grand Rapids. She received spontaneous applause for “From Vaudeville to Vegas,” in which she kicks her feet higher than her head, does a spirited Charleston and pirouettes herself into comic confusion.

Kathy Robinson is quick with an ad-lib as the hefty Mother Superior and delivers great duets with Wydetta Carter who portrays her second-in-command, Sister Mary Hubert. Carter’s rich, bluesy voice lets loose in “Take the Money and Run.”

Sr. Mary Amnesia (Marcia Sofley) trills the high descants in the ensemble numbers and leads one of the most spirited songs of the evening, “What’s Black and White with Her Money on Red?” Perhaps the biggest surprise vocally was Mary Robin Roth who as Sister Robert Anne belts out “Why Sing a Ballad” in a hearty Ethel Merman style.

Goggin’s humor teeters on the edge of risqué but stops shy of making a nun blush. Something tells me “what happens in this play in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas for long”— The secret’s out!