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Jeanne M. Tinker shines in the 25th anniversary revival of Dan Goggin's crowd-pleasing musical about a bunch of singing nuns. logo
Jeanne M. Tinker, Bambi Jones, and Bonnie Lee in Nunsense
(© Michael Feldser)
Dan Goggin's crowd-pleasing musical Nunsense has returned to the Cherry Lane Theatre, where it made its Off-Broadway premiere 25 years ago. The production is, as expected, fun and engaging, even if there are certain aspects of Goggin's staging that don't quite work.

The paper-thin plot has the Reverend Mother Mary Regina (Bonnie Lee) and four other members of The Little Sisters of Hoboken -- Sister Mary Hubert (Bambi Jones), Sister Robert Anne (Maria Montana), Sister Mary Amnesia (Jeanne M. Tinker), and Sister Mary Leo (Stephanie Wahl) -- performing a benefit show. They're trying to raise money to cover the funeral costs for some dead nuns, who perished in an unfortunate food incident and are now stored in the convent's freezer.

That brief description gives you some idea of the irreverent tone of the piece. However, while there are a few saucy jokes, the majority of the text is fairly harmless and unlikely to offend anyone except the most prudish audience members (who would be unlikely to attend a show called Nunsense anyway).

The five actresses in the current cast at the Cherry Lane have all previously performed in at least one of the shows within the Nunsense franchise -- and there are many -- and their comfort in playing their roles is clear to see. The standout is Jeanne M. Tinker, who radiates a genuine warmth and has an appropriately quirky demeanor. She's positively delightful in "So You Want to Be a Nun," a duet that Sister Mary Amnesia performs with Sister Mary Annette, whom Tinker also voices via a hand puppet.

Wahl, a former Radio City Rockette, has some fun dance sequences, choreographed by Teri Gibson. Jones impresses in the show's gospel-flavored penultimate number, "Holier Than Thou." Lee handles the scene in which the Reverend Mother accidentally gets high on a substance called "Rush" with comic dexterity. Montana pushes too hard at times, but has a likable quality as the nun who wants to shine, but has instead been cast as the understudy.

Vocally, the cast is just okay. The performers achieve some nice harmonies, particularly in "The Drive-In," featuring Sisters Amnesia, Robert Anne, and Leo. But their solo numbers aren't always as effective as they could be. This is particularly the case with the Reverend Mother's "Turn Up the Spotlight," which Lee doesn't have sufficient breath support to make soar, and "Growing Up Catholic," which Sister Robert Anne sings at the top of the second act. The lyrics of this tune are the most poignant in the show, but Montana's delivery doesn't do the song justice.

Goggin has updated certain aspects of his script since the show's original run, as there are now references to plasma televisions, TiVo, and Desperate Housewives. Some of the show's jokes don't quite land, but there are still enough that do to make the production worthwhile. Additionally, the score is filled with such catchy tunes that you're likely to be humming a few on your way out the door.

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