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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Mega Musical Version
Desert Foothills Theater

Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's recent reviews of The Music Man, Love Is Here to Stay: A Gershwin Cabaret and Assassins

Brenda Goodenberger and Cast
Photo by Tiffany Bolock / Desert Foothills Theater
Like the Energizer Bunny, the musical Nunsense has proven to have a non-stop life. Dan Goggin's whimsical show, which started as a humorous collection of satirical greeting cards before blossoming into a mega-hit Off-Broadway musical featuring a cast of five, has been adapted into an all-male version, spun off a holiday-themed edition, and filmed for TV. It has now been expanded into a show for a larger cast, entitled Nunsense: The Mega Musical Version. Desert Foothills Theater presents a two week run of the show in a charming, though not entirely hilarious, production.

The Little Sisters of Hoboken have a serious problem. A deadly bout of food poisoning has caused their group to shrink after 52 of their sisters were killed by a bowl of tainted vichyssoise. Burial costs took a toll on the Sisters who still have four sisters to bury but find themselves short on funds, partially also due to an impulse purchase when the Reverend Mother opted to procure a large screen plasma TV. They've decided to put on a fundraiser to raise the cash to bury the remaining sisters who are currently residing in the mission's freezer. Time is of the essence as well due to an impending visit by an inspector from the Hoboken Department of Health.

The original show ran for over 3,600 performances Off-Broadway and while his score is mostly forgettable, Goggin's wacky plot and humorous characters add plenty of comical moments to this charming musical. DFT's cast features several gifted performers, including two men who provide added moments of hilarity due to their cross-dressing nature. As the Reverend Mother, Phillip Arran has a lovely command of the part and the stage. While his take on the role is assured, it is also slightly more comical than other portrayals of the Reverend Mother that I've witnessed. It still works, though I wish he had more of a stern and fierce delivery in order to instill more of a controlling presence in this very controlling woman.

Anne-Lise Koyabe is a breath of fresh air as Sister Hubert, the nun who often bickers with the Reverend Mother. Koyabe provides many moments of humor with the wise-cracking quips and her expert double takes. Brenda Goodenberger is superb as Sister Amnesia, the nun who lost her memory after being hit on the head by a falling crucifix. Goodenberger's glazed over, "deer caught in the headlights," look is priceless and she doesn't miss a beat in ensuring every line is delivered with comic aplomb. Her ventriloquist number "So You Want to Be a Nun" is a highlight. Tina Khalil is the sister who aches to be a "star" and she does a fine job in making us see the star potential her character has. Her solo "I Just Want to Be a Star" is full of life and has many funny bits. Lindsay Kalby does a nice job as the ballerina-loving sister and Matthew Harris is an absolute riot as Sister Julia, Child of God, the cook who made that deadly soup. Harris' Julia Child impression during the cooking segment is spot-on and hilarious.

Director and choreographer Kat Bailes does a nice job of making sure the pacing of the show moves well and adds some fun dance bits, including a tap number that gets all of the nuns into the action. However, while most of the cast is able to land the the comical lines for big laughs, there are a few who don't quite succeed due to rushed delivery or not putting the emphasis on the correct words. Dan Kurek's music direction delivers some lovely vocals from the large cast and, while his piano playing skills are professional, hearing the musical accompaniment for this show's score only played by a solo piano gives a slightly amateur sound to the musical numbers. The set design by Dorann Matson is simple but fun as are Mickey and Rhea Courtney's costumes which have the entire cast clad in habits and wimples. Drake Dole's lighting provides some nice colors and hues to the production.

Full of wit and innuendo, Nunsense is a fun-filled show that gives these sisters many moments to show the hilarity that is hiding beneath their habits. While DFT's production isn't as funny as it could be, it is still full of charm and features some talented women, and men, underneath those wimples.

Nunsense: The Mega Musical Version at Desert Foothills Theater runs through November 20th, 2016 at the Cactus Shadows Fine Art Center, 33606 N. 60th Street in Scottsdale. Tickets and information on upcoming shows can be found at or by calling 480 488-1981.

Directed / Choreographer: Kat Bailes
Music Director: Dan Kurek
Stage Manager: Mollie Flanagan
Scenic Designer: Dorann Matson
Lighting Design: Drake Dole
Costume Design: Mickey & Rhea Courtney
Sound Engineer: Lathan Evans

Rev. Mother: Phillip Arran
Sr. Hubert: Anne-Lise Koyabe
Sr. Amnesia: Brenda Goodenberger
Sr. Robert Anne: Tina Khalil
Sr. Leo: Lindsay Kalby
Sr. Julia: Matthew Harris
Ensemble: Christina Robinson, Elizabeth Lyon, Randi Argenbright, Skye Ayers

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