Matthews Playhouse presents much-loved musical comedy
Can you imagine seeing five nuns performing on the set of “Grease” to raise money to bury several fellow sisters? That’s about what the Matthews Playhouse stage will look like this time next week.
The nonprofit community theater will present the musical comedy “Nunsense” at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 8, Saturday, June 9, Friday, June 15, and Saturday, June 16, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 10 and 17. The play, written by Dan Goggin, centers on five nuns who have to raise money to bury the final four of 52 fellow sisters who were accidentally poisoned by the convent cook. Tickets are $15 to $17.
Because the students of their school are putting on the stage musical “Grease,” the nuns are forced to perform their fundraiser show with “Grease” props in the background. And on top of that, one of the nuns, Sister Mary Amnesia, has…well…amnesia from a crucifix that fell on her head and blocked her memory.
“It’s hilarious,” director/choreographer Ron Chisholm said. “There are lots of songs, probably about 15 songs in the show. It’s just a feel good musical.”
Since “Nunsense” first opened in the early 1980s, nine different productions have been derived from the concept. Matthews Playhouse will be presenting the original storyline. “It’s almost like a cult classic,” Chisholm said. “People go see the various productions of it because it’s just that good.”
Chisholm said he chose the musical, not just because of its popularity, but because it hasn’t been performed in this area for more than 10 years. Plus, the idea of working with a smaller cast was appealing.
“Nunsense” calls for only six cast members for the five nuns and a priest.
“This show is just very enjoyable because it’s a small cast,” Chisholm said. “They all have strong characters that they’re portraying, and it’s really put together like a revue.”
But having a smaller cast presented a few challenges as well. Because of the number of songs in the play, each actress had a lot of material to learn. Each actress is on stage for a good portion of the show, so keeping the energy flowing has been difficult at times, Chisholm said.
Then there was the tap dance, which Chisholm said was probably the most difficult part of the show for the actresses to learn.
“One (of the actresses) had never tap danced before,” he said. “They will probably tell you that is their most challenging part.”
For seasoned stage actress Pat Heiss, who plays the quick-witted “gal in charge” Mother Superior, getting into character was the easiest part.
“I first read the play and was like, ‘Oh, I like her,’” she said. “Each of the different sisters has a distinct personality. You just have to find that and work it and if you’re way off base, the director will pull you back in.”
Chisholm and Heiss, who were both raised Catholic, appreciate the religious humor and Catholic jokes.
“I know about nuns,” Heiss said. “There were nuns I couldn’t stand because they were mean as heck, and there were nuns who were just adorable.”
But Chisholm said you don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the show. He recently showed a preview to a group of teenagers who had never heard of the show, and they loved it.
“They were hysterical over it,” he said. “The comedy is written extremely well.”
For Heiss, the comedy is the key element.
“If I can make you laugh, I have done my job,” she said.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.matthewsplayhouse.com.