Nunsense: In Concert

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Nunsense: In Concert

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, March 19, 2018

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

The Second Act Series is devoted to presenting tab versions of musicals that haven’t been heard in New York City for some time. Its choice for the evening was the hysterical Nunsense. The fact that this show has become a cottage industry of sequels, television shows, and CDs tends to obscure the fact it is irreverent, witty, and just plain funny.

The production, carefully edited by uncredited hands, presents about 2/3 of the original material, including a few updates, and preserves the through-line of the story (one can hardly call it a plot) about a convent desperately raising money to bury four of their order who have been unfortunately and accidentally poisoned by their chef, Sister Julia, Child of God. Somehow, they wind up at Feinstein’s/54 Below where the Mother Superior hopes to meet Andy Warhol. What follows included cooking demonstrations, a sarcastic nun puppet, audience participation in the guise of a pop quiz on the order’s history, and several sisters with show biz in their blood competing for the spotlight. Of course, all ends happily, thanks to a very strange twist of fate.

Smoothly staged by Steven Carl McCasland, with music director “Father” James Horan, who added a word or two of wisdom as well, the show moved with great pacing and energy. One standout was Tari Kelly as the loopy Sister Mary Amnesia, who never fell out of character, even when just sitting upstage.

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She shone with surprise at her every line when center stage. Another was Carly Sakolove as Sister Mary Robert, the most worldly of the order, with her clarion voice and a great ear for imitations when her solo “I Just Want to Be a Star” slid smoothly into a series of recreations of Broadway icons such as Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone.

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Patti Mariano, as the tiny but whimsically tough Mother Superior, recalled the charming tough personality of Helen Hayes. Erica Hansen as Sister Mary Leo, whose role suffered the most from the cutting of material, brought a sweet personality and voice to the proceedings, while Bambi Jones as the second in command at the convent brought a powerful belt and a slightly sour projection to her lines.

Next up for this creative company is Dance a Little Closer on April 16 at The Green Room 42.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."