The Little Sisters of Hoboken are back for another rib-tickling musical revue. This time, Dan Goggin's endearing eccentrics sing zesty tunes with a country-and-western twang as Sister Amnesia (a.k.a. Sister Mary Paul), having discovered her true identity and rediscovered her burning desire to be a country singer in the Off-Broadway hit Nunsense, finally records her debut country album, "I Could Have Gone to Nashville," and goes on tour to promote it.
OdysseyStage will present a community-theater production of Sister Amnesia's Country Western Nunsense Jamboree — Nunsense Jamboree, for short — May 7-16 at St. Thomas More School in Chapel Hill, NC. Lauren Walker will direct the show, and Megan Mazzocchi will repeat the role of Sister Amnesia, which she performed with such pizzazz in the May 10-19, 2002 OdysseyStage production of Nunsense, also at St. Thomas More School. (Nunsense Jamboree is Dan Goggin's third song-and-dance extravaganza featuring the zany disaster-prone nuns who operate Mount Saint Helen's School in Hoboken, New Jersey.)
"I am actually the Gerald Ford of directors," quips Lauren Walker. "The original director dropped out as the rehearsal schedule got under way due to personal issues. And the producer called me on a particularly sanguine evening. Having just finished one show, I accepted. I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting into."
Walker admits, "I was not familiar with the Nunsense franchise, so I had a good deal of self-educating to do. But now I think that was a blessing. This show is a follow-up production to OdysseyStage's performance of the original Nunsense a few years ago. I was living in New York at the time, but have seen it on video. And I can honestly say we have done well by the spirit of this show.
"What I love best about this show is its pure heart," Walker says. "This is a truly corny, silly show; but it has such moments of goodness. And we are blessed (literally) with a cast that is so darn dedicated. Rather than play it tongue-in-cheek, we have all embraced the inherent goofiness and decided to play it as true as possible."
Walker explains, "In the original Nunsense, audiences met the Sisters of the Mount Saint Helen's convent in Hoboken, New Jersey. One of them, Sister Amnesia (a role reprised by Megan Mazzocchi) confessed to a love of country music. This production really is Sister Amnesia's Country Western Nunsense Jamboree. The girls are on tour — with faces new and old — promoting Amnesia's new album and continuing their tradition of silly songs and stories — with a couple heartstring-tugging moments thrown in for good measure.
"Sister Robert Anne (Joan Troy) returns with her wise-cracks and slightly off-color jokes," Walker explains. "Sister Mary Leo (Heather Shinpaugh) dazzles all with her divine voice, balletic dance, and swinging rope tricks. New to the tour are Sister Mary Wilhelm (Maria Gargano), who keeps everyone in line while stealing the show, and Father Virgil Trott (John Paul Middlesworth), the lone injection of testosterone."
Director Lauren Walker, who doubles as set designer, heads an OdysseyStage production team that also includes musical director Jane Waddell, scenic designer Tony Walker, lighting designer Lauren Walker, costume designer Melanie Miller, and sound designer Joan Troy.
Walker says the show is set in "a two-story barn, complete with hay bales and Gateway computer boxes (ha!)," lit "the best we can... with two lighting trees and four skylights." She says the cast's costumes are "your basic black-and-white habits, accented by glittery scarves, cowboy hats, and square-dance skirts."
Lauren Walker claims, "The biggest challenge [in staging Nunsense Jamboree] was taking the helm of a production I had no knowledge of two minutes prior to being asked to step in and help out. The second biggest challenge was the fact that I've never directed a musical before.
"I've done close character study," she says. "I've worked with some actors and a couple chairs. This show, however, is a whole lot more. The first two weeks was major catch up. Learn the show. Figure out what we needed. Find out who was doing what. Create a schedule. And get going. We've worked in and around all the functions at St. Thomas More School, but everyone has pitched in and made this production happen."
Walker adds, "The audience should know that they need to leave any cynicism at the door. Clapping and singing along is encouraged. This show has a true heart and the nuns say it best: 'We hope you brought some butter. 'Cause we all brought the corn!'"
OdysseyStage presents Nunsense Jamboree Friday-Saturday, May 7-8 and 14-15, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 9 and 16, at 3 p.m. at in the theater at St. Thomas More School, 920 Carmichael St., Chapel Hill, North Carolina. $10 ($8 students and seniors). 919/968-6182. OdysseyStage: http://www.odysseystagetheatre.org/. Nunsense: http://www.nunsense.com/home.cfm. Nunsense Jamboree: http://www.nunsense.com/show.cfm?show=3.