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Winterport Open Stage presents Nunsense'

WINTERPORT They might have heavenly voices, but they're here to raise a little hell.

Winterport Open Stage is presenting their production of the musical 'Nunsense' with book, music and lyrics by Dan Goggin at the Wagner Middle School in Winterport. The production runs through April 28. Tickets are $10 ($8 for students and seniors).

The Little Sisters of Hoboken are in a bit of a bind. Their cook (Sister Julia, Child of God) has accidentally poisoned the majority of the convent's residents with a tainted fish stew. Only 19 sisters remain they survived due to being off playing Bingo. A handful of the survivors have thus taken it upon themselves to put on a show in an effort to raise funds to pay for the burials of their fallen sisters.

Leading the way is Sister Mary Regina (Heather Astbury-Libby), the Reverend Mother of the Little Sisters. She is joined by Sister Mary Hubert (Brianne Beck), the Mistress of the Novices and the convent's second-in-command. In addition, there's the streetwise Sister Robert Anne (Elena DiSiervo Burns), novice (and erstwhile ballerina) Sister Mary Leo (Kari Stowe) and the aptly-named Sister Mary Amnesia (Tina Cote Burns), who lost her memory after being struck on the head by a falling crucifix.

The show which takes place on the set of the Mount St. Helen's School production of 'Grease' is filled with songs that will tickle the funny bone while setting toes to tapping. Whether they're singing songs about their former lives at a French leper colony ('A Difficult Transition'), the dichotomy of Godliness and ambition ('Playing Second Fiddle'; 'I Just Want to be a Star') or the power of the past ('Lilacs Bring Back Memories'), the Little Sisters of Hoboken offer quality entertainment.

And that leaves aside stuff like audience quizzes, coarse-speaking puppets, interpretive ballet and one of the oddest cookbooks you're ever likely to encounter.

Simply put, these Brides of Christ are hilarious some real fun nuns.

A show like 'Nunsense' asks a lot of its cast. The frenetic energy that fuels the show requires the five-woman ensemble to turn the knob to 11 and leave it there. Without that energy, you're left with a show that would be largely ineffective. Happily, this group proves to be more than up to the task.

Astbury-Libby provides a strong center to the show; her Reverend Mother is just the right combination of stern and silly. Beck's portrayal of Sister Mary Hubert has an endearing genuineness to it that serves to inform the madcap moments beautifully. Sister Mary Leo comes to beaming life thanks to Stowe's sweet smile and sweeter voice. 

Elena Burns marks a triumphant return to the local stage after a seven-year absence; Sister Robert Anne is brash and brassy in her hands, while Burns' voice is as strong as ever. And Tina Burns plays Sister Mary Amnesia wonderfully; you can practically see the 'No Vacancy' sign blinking in her eyes.

But trying to address this group on an individual level is foolhardy; it is an ensemble in the truest sense of the word. Each actress is in complete command of her part, bringing the pieces together into a triumphant whole that is packed to overflowing with laughs. Everyone onstage commits wholeheartedly to each and every moment. They have to. 'Nunsense' is the sort of show that could easily devolve into boring schticky slapstick without honest efforts from the cast.

Director and choreographer Dominick Varney has often shown an in-depth understanding of the vagaries of musical theater, both onstage and off. He has elicited a truly spirited performance from this cast, helping them utilize their considerable talents in ways that fit perfectly with the show. Musical director Phil Burns has done some fine work of his own; the songs are delightful throughout. There's a rousing, driving sense of pace that helps amp things up and mine that necessary energy. Burns also plays the piano for the show alongside drummer Thomas Libby; together, the duo provides the foundational backbeat for the performance.

'Nunsense' isn't particularly deep or insightful it isn't that kind of show. It's not the sort of experience that leaves you pondering big questions. However, it is a full-on pedal-to-the-metal good time. It is completely unapologetic in its goofiness. It has wonderfully catchy tunes, broadly hilarious characters and an utterly indomitable spirit. 

In short it is one hell of a good time.


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