By James V. Ruocco
The cheeky aplomb of that dialogue, among others, sets the stage for the comic underpinning, the vamping, the rivalry, the chaos and the madness that ensues when the Little Sisters of Hoboken find themselves back in the spotlight for "Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical," a light-hearted continuation of the original "Nunsense" story set against the backdrop of WCON-TV, a special cable access television station (built in the convent basement) that will broadcast the nun's first ever televised Christmas concert filmed and edited before a live television audience.
Four Catholic school children are also scheduled to appear in the program alongside Father Virgil, a Franciscan monk who also happens to be the real-life brother of the convent's Sister Mary Leo, a nun who has dedicated her life to the world of ballet.
At the Arts of Angeloria's, Goggin's hit musical springs to life in a deliciously witty production that is topped with fulltime giggles and holiday merriment just the way Goggin intended it to be. The material - timed, primed and decked with an invigorating, interactive book that thrusts the audience right into the ongoing action (this is true of all "Nunsense" musicals) - allows for additional megawatt nuttiness, sprinkled with jokes, songs, remembrances, skits, dances and inappropriateness that kicks "Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical" into orbit with surefire wit, savvy and whirling abandon.
There's Christmas gift giveaways.
There's a Catholic Home Shopping Network with questionable items thrown in for laughs.
There's a "Nutcracker" ballet with Father Virgil in drag.
There's a Julia Child Cooking Show.
There are holiday songs that unfold with the wrong lyrics due largely on Sister Mary Amnesia's misinterpretations.
There's bickering, embarrassed moments, revelations and mistimed skits that go belly-up.
And if you've missed any of the "Nunsense" musicals (doubt anyone in the audience would admit to such a sin), "Nuncrackers" includes playful bits and pieces that recall how 52 nuns of the order died from food poisoning and how Sister Mary Paul was nicknamed Amnesia after a crucifix fell on her head causing frequent absent mindedness.
If it's laughter you want, you'll find plenty of that - and so much more - smartly woven into the utterly silly comic palette of Goggin's creation.
The heartfelt residency that is "Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical" is communicated with laugh-a-minute celebration and assertion by director Peter Weidt who gives the two-act musical comedy an open-faced appeal and zany badge of honor that paves the way for non-stop fun and theatrical clout of the highest order. It's a madcap foray of opportunity that's extended and played with vaudevillian brio, high spirit and showbiz hokey that brings down the house pretty much every five or six minutes.
Then again, that's the point.
It's massive. It's in-the-moment. It's hoot and howl. It's deliberate. It's overshooting. It's goofy. It's hysterical.
Weidt takes great delight in making people laugh, going with the flow, whisking the story foreward with a chuckle and filling the liminal space of the theater with immersive song and comedy that supports Goggin's concept, his humor, his story arcs, his characters, his tilts, his double takes, his one-liners and religious gamboling.
The musical score for "Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical" - sweet, rhythmic, charming and committed - unfolds with room-filling glee and giggle, offset by a self-confident carapace of tunes that recall the playful, invigorating cheer of "Nunsense" and its many continuations including "Nunsense 2: The Second Coming" and "Sister Amnesia's Country Western Nunsense Jamboree."
Featuring music and lyrics created by "Nunsense" maestro Dan Goggin, "Nuncrackers" contains 22 musical numbers, all of which are seamlessly integrated into the actual story, which is also penned by Goggin himself.
They are: "Christmas Time Is Nunsense Time," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Joy to the World the Cat's Away," "Santa's Little Teapot," "Twelve Days Prior to Christmas," "The Christmas Box," "Santa Ain't Comin' to Our House," "The Wassail Song (A Waffling)," "A Carnival Christmas," "The Holly and the Ivy (Ivory)," "The Nutcracker Ballet," "Three Hundred Sixty-Four Days," "Jesus Was Born in Brooklyn," "In the Convent," "The Three Kings," "The First Noel (Leopards)," "All I Want For Christmas," "Christmas Sing-Along," "Gloria," "A Brand New School," "It's Better to Give" and "Christmas Time Is Nunsense Time (reprise)."
The idea behind any of the "Nunsense" musicals is Fun! Fun! Fun! And Goggin, musical guru that he is, is not one to disappoint. Here, the joie de vivre is a musical score that excites, entertains, commands and gets you howling with laughter.
Goggin, as musical storyteller, carries the "Nuncrackers" torch proudly with hilariously shaped melodies, ballads and production numbers that unfold with just the right amount of irony, instrument, investment, patter, color, wink and gum-drop gooey abandon. Then and now, his writing is freewheel and matter-of-fact with splendid gurgles of mischief, mayhem, range and humor - all individually tailor-made for the specific characters he's selected to bring them merrily to life.
All of this is energized full throttle by "Nuncrackers" musical director Ed Rosenblatt who fulfills the demands of Goggin's score with style, zing, snap and trademark "Nunsense" representation. There's ping and jest right from the start along with showpiece focus, backbone and highlight, all of which complements the musical's orchestral hijinks, its holiday cheer and evolving comical narrative. It's a labor of love - tuned and guided with lively acoustics and presentation by onstage accompanist Bill D'Andrea, a musician, who, under Rosenblatt's tutelage, brings an immersive, campy elan to the proceedings that dominates the show and its music with the entertaining kitsch and carry craftsmanship that adheres to Goggin's original conceit.
"Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical" stars Lori Holm as Sister Mary Paul (Amnesia), Leann Crosby as Sister Mary Hubert, Jen Passaretti as Sister Robert Anne, Tony Lamberto as Father Virgil Manly Trott, Heidi Bass-Lamberto as Sister Mary Regina (Rev. Mother), Eric Chubet as John Kelly, Aaj Desai as Billy Wilson/Nutcracker Prince, Lilly Wood as Louise Mayfield and Alexandria Joshi-Staples as Maria Montini.
In the role of Sister Mary Amnesia, the daffy nun who gets things continually mixed up and often can't remember her own name, Lori Holm - last seen in the venue's exhilarating 2021 summer production of "Mamma Mia!" - launches into high gear with a comic portrait etched with brilliantly timed verbal acumen, skittish twirl, comic harmony and priceless, baffled expressions and wonderment.
Leann Crosby - a perfect fit for the part of Sister Hubert - crafts a wonderfully conceived comic performance - rich in daring physical energy and flawless comic timing - that hilariously mirrors the playfulness and spunky, flavorsome spirit of the character as originally conceived by Goggin in the "Nunsense" musicals.
As Sister Mary Regina, the Rev. Mother of the Little Sisters of Hoboken order, Heidi Bass-Lamberto blasts off with a refreshing, full-bodied performance that portrays the character's bossy mode, her love of the spotlight and bottled attempts to make light of situations that go wrong on stage and at the convent during the filming of the WCON-TV holiday special.
There's fun galore into the animated, charismatic character turn delivered by Jen Passaretti in the role of Sister Robert Anne from Brooklyn. It's a wry, teasing, knockabout portrayal, laced with wit, imagination, depth and spin that the actress orchestrates brilliantly throughout the production.
Father Virgil, as played by Tony Lamberto, smoothly shifts into comic gear with natural, vaudevillian ease, thus, bringing lots of well-timed flourishes to his many onstage "Nuncracker" skits and zany twists of fate that push his character into the center stage spotlight.
Making his acting debut in "Nuncrackers" as Billy Wilson and the Nutcracker Prince, Aaj Desai brings the right voice, charm and spirit to the proceedings, which makes his stage debut as relevant as ever. "Oliver Twist" lookalike Eric Chubet slides into his role of John Kelly with plenty of personality, opportunity, enthusiasm and energy. Like Desai, he's an onstage natural who adapts to the material at hand with polish, point and harmony.
Lily Wood (Louise Mayfield) and Alexandria Joshi-Staples (Maria Montini) also come to "Nuncrackers" with nicely played rhythm, interaction and holiday merriment.
A musical confection that bounds along with a ceaseless energy that appeals to audiences of all ages, "Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical" is sheer fun for anyone who succumbs to the rip-roaring silliness of its unapologetic giddyap and over-the-top lunacy.
It sways. It sings. It dances. It cajoles.
As directed by Peter Weidt, it's high-energy fun chock full of pizzazz and slapstick, performed by a confident, committed cast who sing and sway their way through yet another "Nunsense" musical of time capsule nostalgia, frivolity and make believe, all dressed up in the red and greens of the upcoming Christmas holidays.