Review: Nunsense (The Civic Light Opera Company)

Photo of the cast of NunsenseNunsense is a hilarious comedic musical on stage at the Zion Cultural Centre in Toronto

I have a kinda funny relationship with Nunsense. It all started in my last year of high school. I really, really wanted our drama department to put on the musical, Once on this Island so I rounded up a bunch of my fellow musical theatre geek friends and put together a proposal.Our drama teacher looked it over and suggested that we do something a little more “simple” and easy to pull off instead that maybe doesn’t involve a cast of 20+ characters set on the Caribbean Sea. He suggested Nunsense. We were disappointed that we couldn’t do our original plan, so we just dropped the whole thing, but Nunsense always stuck in my mind for some reason.

Now, here I am ten years later finally getting to see what this show is about, courtesy of The Civic Light Opera Company and let me tell you… this company has pulled it off with class, pizzazz and all of the nun-related humor one would expect from a show with a title like Nunsense.

Entering the Zion Cultural Centre, I’m met with the set of Grease which looks like it came out of 1979, you know the one with the shoo bee doo wops and the poodle skirts? My confusion was soon extinguished as I discover it’s all part of the act. It adds to the silliness that is Nunsense. I mean, of course these nuns would be performing their show on the set of Grease like it’s no thing. Why the hell — ahem — heck, not!

The premise for Nunsense is a little strange, but I eventually get into it. The head nun cook accidentally tainted the soup one day, killing off the majority of the convent. So the remaining five nuns are here for one night to sing, dance and make you laugh to fund raise some cash for a proper burial.

Like I said, the show is pure silliness. We’ve got nuns getting high, nuns putting on puppet shows, nuns waddling through the aisles like penguins. My guest and I would keep giving each other knowing looks that said “did they really just do that? Oh nuns”.

Some of the jokes are a little too dated for my millennial brain to comprehend (Nunsense was written in 1985 after all). Honestly though, I find the best parts to be the physical humour and gags such as when Sister Mary Regina huffed glue or when Sister Robert-Anne twisted her habit into Pocahontas pigtails. The humour is totally weird and wacky and I love it.

Although all of the sisters shine in their own ways, I’ll mention Mickey Brown who plays an adorable Sister Mary Regina. Her moments alone on stage are my favorite parts. She’s one of those actors who don’t realize how funny they are thus making her that much more hilarious. I’ll also give kudos to Stephanie Birrell who delivered her vocals with unwavering confidence, hitting those high notes like a total pro.

Though the show definitely keeps its pace from beginning to end, there are a few moments throughout where things are a bit shaky and present as either uncertainty in line delivery or in the flubbing of a dance step or two. In the end, I’m able to forgive them for it because well… they’re nuns! They don’t know how to do all this song and dance stuff. They aren’t taking themselves too seriously, so neither am I.

After wondering about this musical for ten years, I’m glad that Civic Light Opera’s production is my first exposure to it. The production itself encapsulates what Nunsense is all about. It really is a simple show, like my drama teacher said, that’s just trying to make the audience smile. In my opinion, it does exactly that.

Details:

  • Nunsense is playing at the Zion Cultural Centre (1650 Finch Ave. E)
  • Performances run until September 17, 2017. See website for dates and times.
  • Ticket are $28 each and are available to purchase online or at the box office by calling 416-755-1717.
  • This venue is accessible.

Photo of Stephanie Birrell, Mickey Brown, Stephanie Douglas, Julie Lennick, Katie Richardson and Joe Cascone provided by the company. 

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