A chorus line of nuns, dressed in full clerical garb, kick off the Lakeside Little Theatre (LLT) musical for Season 51. “Nunsense,” one of off-Broadway’s biggest successes, ran for 3,672 performances from 1982 to 1993. By the time it closed it had been translated into 21 languages with more than 5,000 productions worldwide. Writer/composer Dan Goggin followed it with six sequels featuring the zany antics of “The Little Sisters of Hoboken.”
Originally a missionary order operating a leper colony on an island off the south of France, the sisters lost control of it, literally by a nose, to Protestant rivals. The nuns then hightailed it back to Hoboken, New Jersey to operate Mount Saint Helen’s School. The Reverend Mother and four others of the order skipped dinner, and were out for the evening playing bingo with a cut-throat group from the Maryknoll convent. They arrived back home to find 52 sisters face down in their vichyssoise, dead from botulism. The Reverend Mother had a vision telling her to start a greeting card company to raise money to bury the 52 sisters. The company was very successful and, thinking there was more than ample money in the account, Mother splurged on a 60-inch, flat-screen color T.V. Belatedly, an error was discovered and having only enough money to bury 48 of the nuns, the remaining 4 were kept on ice in the basement freezer. The sisters needed to find a way to make some fast money as the yearly Health Department inspection had been postponed too many times. Having had another vision, Mother declared that having a talent show would be their only salvation.
I happened to see the off-Broadway show of “Nunsense” in 1993. It was hysterical then and more so now. Due to a few deliberate changes and some “accidental” ones, the LLT production – directed and choreographed by Barbara Clippinger, with Judy Hendrick as musical director – puts a unique spin on this raucous comedy. Originally written for five nuns, due to so many talented gals auditioning, the cast was expanded to ten. Instead of the austere backdrop of an old convent, the lights go up on a colorful set of the musical “Grease.” The Reverend Mother explains that this is because the 8th-grade class is preparing to do this musical show and the nuns promised not to disturb their set. Also, the song “Would Jesus Wear A Rolex” a spoof about T.V. evangelists, was added.