Nunset Boulevard/written and directed by Dan Goggin/Norris Theatre, Palos Verdes/Saturday January 19 only - at 2 pm and 8 pm/will play Fox Performing Arts Center, Riverside, Saturday January 26
Dan Goggin's latest installment in the Nunsense series is Nunset Boulevard, which world premiered in 2009. It is a delicious musical ode to old Hollywood. And yes, Norma Desmond does make a brief appearance. Continuing on its first national tour, the show stopped at the Norris Theatre Saturday for two performances. The matinee I attended was close to SRO, and most everyone just ate up the silly humor and 5 infectious characterizations - the Little Sisters of Hoboken - who find themselves stuck, not where they were led to believe at the Hollywood Bowl, but... at at the Hollywood Bowl A-Rama. Low on plot - there's even a song this time to spell it out - it's high on energy and sheer fun, with some great audience participation including real live bowling on a TV game show takeoff The Price Is Righteous.
Goggin's Catholic background infused him with a respect for the clergy and nuns, so any hint of sarcasm is meant in a pure, loving way. He depicts the Little Sisters of Hoboken as lovers of humanity. They live to bring to the world a joie de vivre that just doesn't quit. As entertainers, they sing, they dance, they tell jokes - sure, some are a shade off-color, but they make us laugh and... this is entertainment, folks! The 5 ladies in the habit are Reverend Mother Sister Mary Regina (Cindy Williams), Sister Mary Hubert (Bambi Jones), Sister Mary Leo (Kimberly Chesser), Sister Mary Paul aka Amnesia (Jeanne Tinker) and Sister Robert Anne (Christine Mild). Those who have followed the Sisters from the very first Nunsense show, know that each has a connection to or desire to be in show business. Regina's is that her family were all circus performers, and Amnesia at one point became a country-western singer. Amnesia usually can't tell back from front, but that's OK, 'cause in spite of the flaws, she's as lovable as a lamb. There's even the bold Sister Mary Annette, a nun puppet, who makes an occasional appearance to cause trouble and rattle the sister's cages. In this show Annette announces that she's auditioning for a movie about Dolores Hart called Nunset Boulevard, and so, the other sisters want to get in on the act. The show revolves around their preparations for the casting call...needless to say, with some hilarious and even quite touching moments.
The musical numbers are truly inventive and delirious fun. "The Hollywood Blondes" has some great costuming with each of the sisters assuming the role of a blonde bombshell star. Also memorable are "Belts, Ballads and Blues Songs", "The Flickers" with an Andrews Sisters trio, a jazzy, bluesy "Don't Look Back" and a cute "Whatever Happened To...?" with Regina essaying Bette Davis as you guessed it, Baby Jane Hudson, with the others in wheel chairs as her sister Blanche. A visual treat! There are also a couple of pretty ballads "Where Is the Rainbow?" for Sister Leo and "There Was a Time..." where Regina poignantly looks back on missed opportunities.
The ensemble under Goggin's slick direction are all HEAVENly, no pun intended. Williams makes Regina a likable Mother Superior and has divinely great moments as Davis and Norma Desmond. She is especially riveting with "There Was a Time...". Jones has a lot of no-nonsense fun with Hubert. Chesser makes Leo a genuine dreamer whose feet never really leave the ground. Tinker is adorable as Amnesia never missing a comic beat and Mild rips up the scenery as Robert Anne. What a dynamic personality with one terrific singing voice! Teri Gibson is the nifty choreographer!
Try and catch Nunset Boulevard at Fox Riverside next Saturday January 26! It's Nunsense at its finest hour, thanks to Dan Goggin's original songs and anecdotes, so get in the habit!