Saint Paul Pioneer Press - Theater Review -

-Jayne M. Blanchard

Dan Goggin's nuns are still habit-forming

Nunsense Jamboree” is the caviar of cornpone, an unholy trinity of country music, jokes that have been around since Aristophanes was a tadpole and four singing, line-dancing nuns (and one priest). Dan Goggin, writer-composer-director of the “Nunsense” franchise, which has grossed more than $20 million so far, has come up with another wholesome winner. “Nunsense Jamboree” is similar to the others in that it’s impishly naughty entertainment to which you could bring your most priggish relative. The pace snaps and breezes along, the songs delight without taxing 0the intellect, and you don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy it.

This third incarnation finds Sister Amnesia (Angela Timberman) mining Reba territory as a country singer. Her debut album, “I Could’ve Gone to Nashville,” is racing up the Billboard charts with a bullet (“I don’t understand why,” Amnesia muses. "I don't have any enemies."), and Reverend Mother allows Amnesia and her wimpled posse to go on a promotional tour.

Amnesia, whose habit is now accessorized with red cowboy boots and a bandana, takes along selfdescribed “cowgirl from Canarsie” Sister Robert Anne (Deborah Del Mastro) to drive the bus, Sister Leo (Tinia Moulder) as a backup singer, Sister Mary Wilhelm (Susan Goeppinger) for her nursing skills and Father Virgil Manly Trott (Richard Long), brother to Sister Leo, to perform emcee duties.

The plot’s as skimpy as Shania Twain’s costumes, basically serving as an excuse for the talented cast to hoot and holler, yodel, twirl batons, play the trumpet, perform rope tricks and do a little auctioneer calling.

And the set is reminiscent of “Hee-Haw” mixed with elements from the Grand Ole Opry and “Laugh-In” – a schoolhouse-red barn and multiple windows and dutch doors for the cast to pop in and out.

It might be a show about nuns, but nothing is sacred, since the show includes words from the sponsors, such as Ascension Air (If you’re in coach, you get a rosary and a snack. First class includes a full meal and high Mass); the Manger Inn (its motto: There’s always room for one more); and Franciscan Fodder (chow for saintly livestock).

The jokes are of the groaner variety: What do you call nuns at the Sistine Chapel? Ceiling fans. And the gags date back to a time, when Jack Benny didn’t lie about his age. But somehow the innocence and unalloyed fun of the “Nonsense Jamboree” cast has the audience laughing heartily over such lines as when Sister Amnesia says that the best thing about being absent-minded is that “you can hide your own Easter eggs,”

The group can sing, too. Del Mastro, Moulder and Timberman especially can belt with the best of them, their voices easily reaching the requisite swoops and sobs that constitute country queens from Tammy Wynette to Lorrie Morgan.

“Nunsense Jamboree” may be corny, but you’ll find yourself warming up to Goggin’s special brand of dopey, cheerful entertainment.