At Timbers Supper Club, Saturday, February 10. Shows
through March 18.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

nunsense.jpgThe 1980s saw a proliferation of
cabaret-scale satires of the Broadway musical. Viewed through the
irreverent camp culture lens of the piano bar, musical comedy was a
perfect point of departure for all kinds of madcap entertainments.
Nunsense is the best-known and most durable of these light satires
of the pre-Oklahoma! musical. Five nuns are on the spot to
create a show — don’t ask why, it doesn’t much matter. Fortunately,
they can all sing, dance, and act. They also happen to be easily
assimilated to the stock types of old-time stage comedy. Katie
Thatcher as Sister Mary Regina, the Mother Superior, is truly a
wonder — a big-voiced, wisecracking, hard-to-please, and
easy-to-smile top banana. She has her hands full with her charges,
who include the streetwise Sister Robert Anne (Holly Ferguson), a
stage-struck singer in her own right; Sister Mary Hubert (Jennifer
Gimblin), the more sensible but still gospel-belting Mistress of
Novices; Sister Mary Amnesia (Julie Anne Ruggieri), a loopy country
singer; and Sister Mary Leo (Kelly Ary), a young novice who dreams
of becoming a famous ballerina.

The newly renovated Timbers Restaurant on Winchester Canyon Road
is a great classic venue, and the delicious menu complements the
show nicely. The performances are uniformly excellent, and the
actresses are clearly having a good time with this challenging
material. Peter McCorkle’s expert direction brings out the
subversive elements in the script without sacrificing either its
breakneck pacing or the dazzling range of sophisticated performance
skills necessary to pull it off. Ruggieri conducts the first
audience participation sequence, a quiz that tests one’s ability to
remember the facts of the sisters’ sensational backstory. Ruggieri
lights up the room with her gorgeous voice, spot-on timing, and
spectacular mood swings. As Sister Robert Anne, Ferguson takes one
of the night’s most memorable solo turns, the wildly extroverted “I
Just Want to Be a Star.”

The night’s most exciting discovery is young Ary, who charms
everyone, including her fellow performers, with a sweetly
expressive voice and hilarious comic acting. In addition to playing
the dancing novice, Sister Mary Leo, Ary makes a sidesplitting
cameo as Sister Mary Annette, a short-tempered nun hand puppet
somewhat in the vein of Triumph, the Insult Comic dog. Overall,
this is a very entertaining production that bodes extremely well
for the future of dinner theater at the Timbers.


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