Sunday, October 31, 2010

REVIEW: Manatee Players have fun with 'Nunsensations'

The old saying “the show must go” once again rang true this past week for the Manatee Players.

The community theater troupe opened “Nunsensations: The Nunsense Vegas Revue” on Thursday at Riverfront Theatre in Bradenton. Last Tuesday, Jeanne Larranaga, reprising her Mother Superior role from the Players’ production of “Nunsense” last season, severely twisted her knee. What do you do when the star sister can’t walk?

Rather than shut down the show or find a last-minute replacement, director Steven Flaa adroitly wrote the injury into the performance. Opening night featured Mother Superior gracefully zipping around the stage, delivering her lines and singing while seated on a motorized scooter. The move worked so well, it appeared like a planned alteration.

Alas, more changes would have aided the often tired-feeling fifth “Nunsense” sequel Dan Goggin has written since the original premiered off-Broadway in 1985.

“Nunsensations” places the Little Sisters of Hoboken in low-rent Las Vegas venue, The Pump Room of the Mystique Motor Lodge. The habit-wearing clergywomen entertain with shtick, sight gags and silly songs. Obvious puns run aplenty. But the five-sister cast (plus a brief appearance by Ross Miller as Brother Ross) sell the fluff with a winning wink.

Stephanie Woodman-Costello excels in the role of sassy Sister Robert Anne, which she also played last season. Laura Sommer Raines portrays Sister Mary Amnesia as appropriately zany without letting her absentmindedness get out of hand. And then there’s Larranaga’s peppy, innovative performance as the scooter-bound Mother Superior.

Sister Robert Anne gets to belt out the best number, “Why Sing a Ballad,” and Woodman-Costello nails it. The entire cast nicely contributed to the humourously naughty “T. and A.,” while the lone serious number went to Johana Davila’s Sister Leo.

“Nunsensations” marks Davila’s professional debut. She’s a senior at Manatee High School and still could use a few more years to fine-tune her acting chops, but as a singer, she easily ranks with any of the finalist on “American Idol.”

Davila apparently has perfect pitch and a most impressive range.

She displayed the poised phrasing of a veteran, and most important, found and spotlighted the emotional core of a song about the young man her character leaves behind to join the convent.
Less gimmicks and more numbers such as “I Left Him There,” would have been greatly welcomed, but audience rewarded pretty much every lightweight line, lyric and gesture with generous guffaws.
This review ran in print on page 3A Sat., Oct. 30.
"Nunsensations:The Nunsense Vegas Revue" runs through Nov. 14 at the Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre in downtown Bradenton.

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