Review – Nunsense The Musical

Sep 3 2011 | By More

★★★★☆   Habit-forming

Edinburgh Academy
Review by Thom Dibdin

Edinburgh amateur musicals company Tempo has pulled off a blinder with this slick, well-choreographed and superbly performed production of nutty nun musical Nunsense the Musical.

This could be seriously habit-forming stuff. The five-strong cast is in such great voice that you need to see it again, straight away. Director Lynne Moyes keeps everything squeaky tight and, as the choreographer, gives her performers some great routines – but never so much as to encumber the singing.

The Little Sisters of Hoboken

It must be said that they have great material to work with, in a book that lifts the audience into place as a part of the show itself. It’s no wonder that the original off-Broadway production of 1984 ran for over three and half thousand performances.

The conceit is simple. Here, in the auditorium of Mount Saint Helen’s School on the set laid out for a production of Grease, nuns from the order of the Little Sisters of Hoboken are holding a much needed fund-raiser. Led by Reverend Mother Sister Mary Regina, a circus performer in her previous life, they have an evening of song and dance planned out, with just a little religion on the side.

Norma Kinnear is in full-blooded bossy mode as Regina and the reason for the benefit is soon clear. When 52 of the order died of food poisoning, the remaining nuns could only afford to bury 48. Four cadavers remain in the convent’s deep-freeze, much to the disgust of Sister Mary Hubert (Lesley Ward), who blames Regina for squandering funds.

With their leaders already bickering, and the need for the evening to be a success, the three junior nuns also have plenty to argue about. As the plot – of sorts – develops, so the musical numbers reflect the ups and downs of the whole crazy gang.

Niloo-Far Khan’s streetwise Sister Robert Anne is tired of playing second fiddle. She’s understudy and hasn’t got any solo spots unless, of course, Sister Regina were to mysteriously fall ill or become otherwise indisposed.

Mairi Beaver is the novice Sister Mary Leo, who dreams of becoming the first ever nun ballerina. This is her chance to shine, although she is constantly being led astray by Sister Robert Anne and naively plunging into all sorts of inappropriate mayhem.

glaikit abandon

The real star of the whole show, however is Gabrielle Pavone as Sister Mary Amnesia – who can’t even remember her own name after a crucifix fell on her head. Pavone has just the right air of glaikit abandon, as she launches into a brilliantly conceived piece of audience interaction with a quiz on Catholicism and the history of the order.

In this sort of small-cast comic musical, there is plenty of space for the performers to upstage one another – and Pavone is mistress of the art. Absent-mindedly wandering into the audience or going off at random is quite in keeping with her character and she makes the whole escapade appear quite natural.

In terms of verbal comedy there is also plenty for Kinnear to master, although she is not quite as slick in her delivery and timing. She does, however, get completely wellied into her big solo routine when Robert Anne “discovers” a bottle of poppers in the dressing room. When Regina sniffs unsuspectingly on the bottle, she blasts off into a completely different space in one of the productions big comic highlights.

The other big set-piece highlight is when the three younger nuns do a turn as the St Andrew’s Sisters, in The Drive-In. Complete with harmonies and tap routines, this suddenly shifts the whole production up a gear and shows off Gabrielle Pavone, Niloo-Far Khan and Mairi Beaver’s voices to their very best advantage.

Behind it all, Musical Director Simon Hanson keeps the on-stage band together well. They do their bit in the audience interaction, and ensure that the music is tight and never overpowers the singers.

A real treat. And of such a high quality that it deserves an instant revival with the cast reprising their roles.

Run Ended


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