“That’s a little bit of convent humour for you”
With a dodgy pot of Vichyssoise, Sister Julia, Child of God has decimated the Little Sisters of Hoboken. But the business of burying 52 dead nuns is a costly one and the remaining sisters are left with no choice but to put on a fundraising variety show to make up the shortfall. Thus begins Dan Goggin’s habit-forming romp Nunsense A-Men! which has just opened at the Landor Theatre and marks the musical theatre debut of cabaret fixture Sister Mary McArthur.
It’s the kind of warmly affectionate silliness that lives or dies by the strength of its performances and fortunately Robert McWhir’s production has hit the mark with some astute casting which allows the show to cycle through its multitude of turns with a heady sense of mischievous glee and irreverent charm. From the moment you enter the theatre, the nuns are there welcoming you in, cracking any number of terrible jokes and generating the kind of relaxed, fun atmosphere that characterises the whole show even at this late preview.
Sister (Tim) McArthur may be the established performing nun and his Reverend Mother Regina shines best when belting vaudeville-inspired numbers, but he is at least equalled by those around him. Josh Rochford’s Sister Amnesia with her country twang and forgetful pauses is a hoot (and surprisingly effective quizmistress), Alastair Knights’ brash Sister Robert Anne brings down the house with a range of habit-based impressions and as novice Sister Mary Leo, David Kristopher Brown gets to live a Disney ballerina dream.
Paul Brangan’s Sister Mary Hubert, the Mistress of Novices with half an eye on becoming Mother Superior won my vote though with a wonderfully assured performance and a deliciously dry sense of humour that constantly drew the attention. But this is an ensemble that works together, from high-kicks to tap, Andrews Sisters impressions to cowboy backing singers, and backed by some quality musical direction from Michael Webborn on the piano, the homespun charms of Nunsense A-Men! will leave you praying for more.