By PAM HARBAUGH
The comical antics and pun-tastic quips emanating from the stage-struck nuns ring familiar, but this time, it’s “Nunsense II: The Second Coming.”
The comedy, written by Dan Goggin, runs through July 2 at Cocoa Village Playhouse. Nearly all the cast appeared in the first “Nunsense” last season. The show left audiences holding their sides with laughter last year; and CVP director Anastacia Hawkins-Smith says the same thing is happening this year.
“The first ‘Nunsense’ last year was so well received and we had so much fun we said what the heck, let’s do ‘Nunsense II’,” Hawkins-Smith said.
After securing the rights, the first thing she did was to reach out to last year’s cast to see if they’d commit to the next iteration in the Goggin’s “Nunsense” cycle, in which there are seven shows, two spinoffs and an attempted television series.
It’s a good thing Hawkins-Smith got most of the same cast because she’s been up to her wimple in shows – the recently closed “Mary Poppins” and the Summer Musical Theater Project with the King Center (DISNEY’S JUNGLE BOOK FOR KIDS runs this weekend). There were only a couple of weeks available for front-burner rehearsals.
“They were such a cohesive group, they were automatically tied together,” said CVP costume designer Dan Hill
Tracey Thompson returns in her role of Mother Superior. An accomplished actress with skills in both drama and comedy, Thompson was quick to say “yes” to Hawkins-Smith.
“The role is just good fun and really has taught me to just enjoy the Reverend Mother ride,” Thompson said. “The nuns give us all an opportunity to share the joy we all feel when we perform. The show is silly fun that gives us all a much needed break to let go of our troubles and have a good laugh.”
Also returning to the stage in their same roles are: Mary Jo Marzilli-Mendola (Sister Robert Anne); Taylor Chang (Sister Leo); and Brevard’s Rita Moreno (Sister Hubert), as very popular area actress who has appeared on multiple stages here. New to the “Nunsense” franchise, if you will, are Whitney Baldwin (Sister Amnesia), Callie Martin (Sister Hubert) who stepped in last weekend when Moreno was out of town. Conductor Bob Barone takes a turn as Brother Bob and Lawrence Mazza, a popular area actor with an impressive resume makes an appearance as the stage hand.
While there is plenty of humor at the nuns’ collective expense, the genesis of it all is love. Goggin, the playwright, has said he wrote the first “Nunsense” out of a deep respect and affection for the nuns who helped shape his life.
Thompson has the same attitude about the show.
“Mother Superior brings back a lot of good memories of my days going to St. Mary’s Catholic School,” she said. “Back then the convent was still there and the nuns were our teachers. Sr. Joan Grace is the one responsible for getting me interested in singing. She sang herself, taught choir and looked for opportunities for me to share my gift.”
While you don’t need to have seen the first “Nunsense” in order to enjoy the sequel, or, rather, the first sequel…a little catch-up can help.
In the first “Nunsense,” five nuns from the Little Sisters of Hoboken gather on the set of a high school production of “Grease” for a fundraiser variety show. They need money for burials of some sisters who had been killed by tainted vichyssoise made by Sister Julia, Child of God. You meet individual nuns, hear their backstories and rejoice with them when the funds become like manna from heaven.
In “Nunsense II: The Second Coming,” the same group gather but this time it is six weeks after the first fundraiser and is set against the scenery for the high school production of “The Mikado.” While the sisters are doing the show as a thank-you for those who helped in the earlier fundraiser, they begin to believe that a talent scout is in the audience.
“Some of the jokes are adult, but they go over a child’s head,” Hawkins-Smith said. “But some of it is so funny. There’s a Can-Can number, a number on roller skates, an Elvis number…It’s difficult getting through rehearsal. We always crack up, especially when the nuns are drinking what they think is water but is actually sake.”
“I told the ladies if they can capture that in the show, that’s what ‘Nunsense’ is all about. They were rolling in the floor cracking up.”
Goggin, the playwright, began his “Nunsense” franchise in 1985 at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York City’s Greenwich Village where it won four Outer Critics ‘Circle Awards. It claims to have been performed in 26 languages, grossing more than $500 million from worldwide productions.
Its five other sequels include:
Although STACI does not have any plans to mount more productions in this loving, goofy series, there are seven more from which to choose:
“Sister Amnesia’s Country Western Nunsense Jamboree” which is set at a stop on the nuns’ tour promoting their new album.
“Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical,” which is a behind the scenes glimpse of the nuns as they gather in their basement to do a public-access TV show ending with a spoof of the Tchaikovsky ballet.
“Meshuggah-Nuns!” set on a cruise ship where the nuns fill in for the seasick cast of “Fiddler on the Roof”
“Nunsensations: the Nunsense Variety Show” which is set in Las Vegas.
“Nunset Boulevard: The Nunsense Hollywood Bowl Show,” which does not bring the nuns into the famed outdoor venue, but instead into the cabaret in a bowling alley.
And if that’s not enough, there are a couple of spinoffs – “Nunsense A-Men!” and “Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class.”
Hearing this list of possible “Nunsense” shows she could produce in following seasons, Hawkins-Smith laughed.
“I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear you say all that,” she said. “The nuns live on.”
This is an edited version of a story running next week in the Melbourne
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Nunsense II: The Second Coming” runs through July 2 at Cocoa Village Playhouse, 300 Brevard Ave., Cocoa. Tickets are $16 to $24. Call 321-636-5050, visit CocoaVillagePlayhouse.com or click on their ad.