By Rachael Gibson
I have to be honest… I’d never seen the musical Nunsense until Saturday night at the SCERA. I don’t know that I’ve ever really even heard of it.
I had NO idea what to expect so as I sat next to my husband in the theater waiting for the show to start, I searched my program for a synopsis. I couldn’t find one, so I tried my best to recollect what I might remember from some of the social media plugs I had read. So, really, we were both in for a surprise.
First off, I have to say that Michael Carrasco did an immaculate job of choosing who would play each sister. Their personalities, looks and mannerisms were completely on point. I also sensed throughout the show that he let them develop their characters and didn’t seem to be “over” directed, but instead felt, even in its silliness, more real. The performances didn’t feel forced, but more of a natural extension of themselves.
Which leads me to how impressed I was with the women acting in this show. I was so excited to see all the talent abounding in such a small cast as it oozed off the stage. Sometimes, literally, off the stage as they would come and interact with the audience off stage. Their interaction with random audience members proved their natural wit and humor and added to the endearing qualities that vested me into each character.
Allison Books, who plays Sister Mary Regina, Mother Superior does a wonderful job of bringing the audience up to speed about the tragedy of a mass poisoning in the convent that, after burials, has left them with four sisters that they have had to put in the freezer until they have the money raised for their proper burials, hence the reason for the show they are putting on at the local school to raise funds. Not only is Books animatedly intriguing, but her accent was so fun and made listening to her explanations even better, but her slapstick, physical humor brought me back to the days of the Carol Burnett show. I was also impressed with her ability to keep her accent even through her songs, which were amazing too.
Mariah Hatch, who plays Sister Mary Robert Anne, was my ultimate favorite of the night probably because I loved her tomboy demeanor, Jersey accent and her subtle antics poking fun at the Reverend Mother. Can I say though, that it was her voice that sold me? Wow! I could have listened to her all night. She, luckily for me, had several stand-out solo parts that cut to the core of my Broadway geekiness and made me feel like I was in New York, New York instead of the SCERA in Orem, Utah.
Chelsea Lindsey, who plays Sister Mary Amnesia was my husband’s favorite mostly because of her fantastic scene with her puppet, Sister Mary Annette (created by the talented Nat Reed). My husband didn’t laugh as hard as I did, (not many do) but he still got a good chuckle watching her switch seamlessly between the two distinct voices. Lindsey kept her character in her face and body language the entire time and truly made me feel she was made for this part.
Shaylia Johnson plays the part of Sister Mary Leo and her face fit the part of the sweet, cute, dreamy-eyed Nun-Dancer she hopes to be. Her ballet pieces were fun and light-hearted. Shelly Stewart Truax is Sister Mary Hubert. Shelley’s years of being onstage are pronounced as you watch her grace, poise and humor bring to life a serious and sensible, yet lighthearted and comical character. She is believable as the Reverend Mother’s sidekick and she shows that in the duet “Just a Coupl’a Sisters.” The standout moment for me, though, was her solo, “Holier Than thou” in which she let her voice and her spirit loose.
You may think that with a play of four nuns dressed in black and white would make for a dull stage presence, but Costumer Kelsey Seaver added small, but fabulous touches to the costumes that brought humor, distinction, and color to the Sisters. I especially got a good laugh at one of the small touches that were added to Mother Superior’s accidental apron. Thanks for that, Kelsey.
Nat Reed, as always, brought M’liss Tolman’s scene design to life which reflected a school auditorium with a second level that added depth and interest. The depth of the stage was enhanced by the lighting design of Marianne Ohran. Christy Norton’s prop designs did not disappoint and were thought of in detail right down to the bar stools that would spin to add to the Sisters’ choreography and antics.
Brandalee B. Streeter did a great job musically directing these five women to sound their best. Jillian Ormond brought so much life to the Sisters with their choreography that it felt like a fresh version of some old musicals, but my favorite was the tap dance that was full of creativity and originality. Stage Manager Danielle Berry added her voice to the show by being the “techy” for Mother Superior, but her real talent showed in how smoothly the show went through each scene and song. It was also a treat to hear sound designer, Kendall Bowman add his voice in as the back-up announcer that night, but it’s always nice to know that he is the one running the sound and making sure we never fall short of being entertained with sound.
The SCERA has long been a community gem that not only brings us great theater and entertainment, but adds to the aura of kindness and service in Orem that bring us all together. We parked along the street for an easy get-away from the crowds for our return home. The volunteers taking tickets were friendly as always and the theatre was clean and smelt of popcorn. We had great seats right in the middle of the floor, which not only had a good view, but also secluded Marc enough that he didn’t feel pressured to participate when the nuns came out to interact with the audience.
At the SCERA, it is one of my favorite things to see and talk with the cast after the show and the nuns were very welcoming. There was even a picture prop in the foyer if you wanted to look like the nuns to post to social media or keep as a souvenir token of the night.
This show runs at the SCERA every Monday, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 until October 8th.
Location: SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 South State Street, Orem, UT 84058
Phone: (801) 225-ARTS
Tickets are $10-$12