Nunsense an unconventional delight

High energy international sensation comes to London

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A large group of nuns dance in a scene from Nonsense

Courtesy of Ross Davidson

OPENING NIGHT OF MARCH OF THE PENGUINS 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. Nunsense: The Mega Musical, produced by Musical Theatre Productions, opens tonight at Palace Theatre.

When a cooking accident kills most of the nuns of the Little Sisters of Hoboken and reckless spending means there isn’t enough money to bury the deceased, the survivors put on a variety show in order to raise funds for the burials. Such is the premise of Nunsense, opening tonight at Palace Theatre. The ensuing shenanigans include tap dancing, slapstick comedy, ventriloquism, ballet and back flipping.

Since opening off-Broadway in 1985, Nunsense has become an international phenomenon, with over 5,000 productions worldwide. It has since been expanded to Nunsense: The Mega-Musical, which features five extra characters and a larger chorus, allowing for more opportunities in community organizations.

Laura Wood, the show’s producer and choreographer, describes Nunsense as “a fun night out,” and says a large part of the show’s appeal has to do with its silly and endearingly irreverent nature. She says it is one “show-stopper after another” " highlights include a huge tap number, back flips and the “powerhouse” vocals on the tune “Holier Than Thou.”

Wood characterizes the choreography as “non-stop” and “high energy,” mentioning that every member of the cast dances. The music has a bit of everything, from gospel to Broadway.

The group producing the play, Musical Theatre Productions, may be an amateur organization, but Wood says the only thing that separates it from the pros is the paycheque. The people involved are exceptionally talented and many of them had or will have professional careers in musical theatre.

The production was first proposed in November and by December, more than 100 people auditioned for the 35 roles. Rehearsals started in January with three per week and have been daily for the past couple weeks.

Some challenges the producers have faced have been getting the word out about the show and convincing people to spend their money in this tough economic climate.

Sarah Cholmondeley plays Sister Amnesia, who begins suffering from her eponymous affliction after a crucifix falls on her head. Cholmondeley describes her character as “playful” and “childlike” and says that working on Nunsense has been a “really fun process.”

Nunsense is playing at Palace Theatre (710 Dundas Street) from March 20 to 28. Tickets are available at the Palace Theatre Box Office at (519) 432-1029 and are $25, or $15 with student ID. All profits will be donated to the London Food Bank.

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