By J.E. Ballantyne Jr.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The long awaited return of Easy Street Productions to the stage was realized Friday evening with their production of “Nunsense” at the DeYor Performing Arts Center.
Written in all phases by Dan Goggin, “Nunsense” is the hilarious musical tale of the Little Sisters of Hoboken as they hold a fundraiser to bury their four remaining sisters that died from a bad batch of soup conjured up by the convent cook, Sister Julia. Having directed numerous productions of this show, memories came flooding back from all of them as I watched the talented Easy Street cast play out the story.
Proud “Nunsense” papa, Dan Goggin, is always making changes to his show to freshen up the humor and update gags, so the new material was fun and gave some new life to what was already a laugh-a-minute musical. Even with all of the problems and hassles of the past year (this was originally scheduled for March of 2020), director Todd Hancock has brought together a dream cast. Any director works hard, and that is evident here, but his job had to be a bit easier with the five pros that brought the show to life.
Add to that two surprise guests and you’ve got a sure fire hit. Who were they? Well, you’ll have to go and find out. Leading the troupe of five nuns is Maureen Collins as Sister Mary Regina. There isn’t much you can say about Collins that hasn’t been said before. Her resume alone speaks volumes but her performance as Sister Regina has to go down as one of the high points of her career. Her vocal ability, her comedic timing and her all around ability gave Regina the punch that the role needs, but what she provided is what many productions of “Nunsense” lack.
Sister Regina is a nun, not an actress, so Collins allowed some ragged edges to be seen from Regina. Many productions make her too slick and professional. She particularly excelled in Turn Up the Spotlight and her scene with a mysterious substance called RUSH.
In a recent interview she said that she wasn’t sure how many roles she has left in her. I don’t think she needs to worry — we’ll be watching her for some time yet.
Carla D. Gipson, another stage veteran, played Sister Mary Hubert (she’s only No. 2). Gipson’s Hubert plays well off of Regina as the two spar for position numerous times during the show. Hubert gets many of the subtle jabs at Regina thus setting up some great laughs. She really gets the convent rockin’ with “Holier Than Thou.” And although she is only second in command, she’s got no inhibitions about making some waves when she can. It is obvious Gipson was having fun with this role.
Colleen Chance does double duty in “Nunsense.” First off, she plays Sister Robert Anne and then doubles as choreographer. Chance gives real gusto to the somewhat rebellious Robert Anne. Her easy and natural acting style fits the Robert Anne character well. And with her powerful and belty vocal ability, she grabs the audience’s full attention with “I Just Want to Be a Star.”
As a choreographer she keeps the show lively and moving with great routines that add pizazz to each and every number.
Most of the bigger laughs go to Sister Mary Amnesia played by Brandy Johanntges. Amnesia is a comedy without actually trying. She came to the convent after being hit on the head with a crucifix, thus robbing her of her memory. That loss of memory, and of who she really is, lends itself to some great comedy gags from beginning to end.
Johanntges, having a great feel for comedy, makes the most of the character with one of the highlights being a scene with a foulmouthed puppet. I’m not sure if she made the puppet look good in that scene or the puppet made her look good, but in any case I personally know the puppet’s agent and he was very pleased with her performance.
The novice nun, Sister Mary Leo, is played by Elizabeth Jadue. Jadue is an Easy Street veteran and is adding another notch to a promising acting career. Leo is perhaps the most normal of all the nuns, if any of them could be termed that way. Jadue plays the part well of an “up and coming nun” and shines with her number “Benedicite.” She exudes confidence and holds her own with the other powerhouse actresses on stage.
Director Todd Hancock has turned out a great production of one of the funniest musicals you will ever see. Some think the show directs itself but not true. Without Hancock’s guiding hand, things could spin out of control easily in a show of this type.
Musical direction by Don Yallech with assistance by Rick Blackson and Jan Crews provide appropriate accompaniment for the Little Sisters. And unlike many musicals, the band is balanced well so you can actually hear the actors onstage. This is a fun, fun show that is strictly laughs from beginning to end — something we certainly need at this time. It is a shame that it can’t play longer than one weekend. But since it can’t, you have two chances left to catch it. Don’t miss it, Sister Regina won’t be happy if you do.
Nunsense will continue Sat. Nov. 6 at 7:30 pm; Sun. Nov. 7 at 2:30 pm
Pictured: Maureen Collins in a scene from Easy Street Productions’ “Nunsense.”
Copyright 2021, AfterHoursYoungstown.com, Youngstown, Ohio.
Posted Nov. 6, 2021.