ST. CHARLES – Fox Valley Repertory’s production of “Nunsense” features five nuns behaving badly and having a sinfully fun time doing it.
The story follows the five Sisters of Hoboken, who – after discovering 52 fellow nuns are accidentally poisoned by the cook, Sister Julia, Child of God – stage a variety show to raise funds for the burials of the four remaining dead nuns that are temporarily taking up residence in the freezer.
The setting of the variety show is Mount Saint Helen’s School, where the eighth-grade class is getting ready to do its production of “Grease” – or as the Sister says, “Vaseline.”
The stars of “Nunsense” include head nun and former circus performer Sister Mary Regina (played by Patti Roeder of Oak Park, who is making her debut performance with Fox Valley Rep); Sister Mary Hubert (played by Missy Aguilar in her first show at Fox Valley Rep); the spotlight-seeking, streetwise nun Sister Robert Anne (played by Jane Brewer, who is celebrating her 41st year of performing in musicals); wannabe ballerina Sister Mary Leo (played by Kristine Burdi of Wheeling); and Sister Amnesia (played by Monica Szaflik in her Fox Valley Rep debut).
Anyone who grew up Catholic or attended Catholic school will appreciate the nun’s light-hearted humor. At the beginning of the show, which included audience participation, a discernible sense of Catholic pride encapsulated the room. But the nuns reel it in during the rest of the show, where lightly poking fun at the Catholic tradition becomes its very essence.
Dan Goggin, who launched the play in 1985 after first creating a popular line of flippant, nun-centric greeting cards, was a seminarian and student of Marywood Dominican Sisters. With that said, he had ample material from which to draw for the musical comedy “Nunsense.”
The show involves tongue-in-cheek dialogue, tart quips and silly dancing routines, as well as a bit of ballet, puppeteering and tap.
With the tap-tastic “42nd Street” on stage at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, the “Nunsense” tap routine, set to the song “Tackle That Temptation with a Time Step,” pales in comparison, but a well-timed comment referencing the Paramount show gives the nuns’ tap-routine a more sarcastic undertone.
Roeder (Sister Mary Regina – also known as Mother Superior ) provides the comedy chops throughout the show, but scores points “higher” than the rest in a scene where she accidentally sniffs an inhalant and proceeds to relinquish claims to any filter the nun may have once had.
She teams physical comedy, with a Rolodex of jokes and puns delivered through raucous laughter and childish enthusiasm.
Szaflik (Sister Amnesia) flexes her vocal muscles with “So You Want to Be a Nun,” when she delivers spot-on puppeteering and vocal prowess.
A touch of seriousness kicks off Act II, when Sister Robert Anne (Brewer) passionately belts out the ballad “Growing Up Catholic,” which adds an element of melancholic depth and heart to the otherwise irreverent song and dance numbers.
Although, the serious tone doesn’t last long, as the very next number is “We’ve Got to Clean Out The Freeze,” referencing the need to remove the four dead nuns housed in the freezer.
The show ends on a high (no pun intended) with “Holier Than Thou,” by Sister Mary Hubert (Aguilar), who uses an incantation of a Baptist minister in the deep South to give the song soul.
By the show’s end, you can’t help but love all of the Sisters in all of their dysfunctional grace.
If you go
What: ‘Nunsense’ Where: Fox Valley Repertory at Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through March 9. Special performances will take place at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Jan. 16 and 23; and 2 p.m. Jan. 30, Feb. 6, Feb. 13 and March 6. Tickets: 630-584-6342 or www.ticketmaster.com Online: www.foxvalleyrep.org