“That’s why we do musicals – variety’s our spice!” sing the stage-struck nuns in the South Okanagan Players’ upcoming show, Nunset Boulevard. Highly anticipated ever since SOAP performed the original Nunsense in 1998, the new musical marks the return of some of the favourite characters to grace the local stage. It hits theatres in the last two weeks of November.
In this Dan Goggin musical, five talented nuns from Mount St Helen’s convent make their way to Tinseltown, on the strength of a contract to perform at the famous Hollywood Bowl. Even when they find out they’ve been conned and are only a lounge act at the Hollywood Bowl-a-rama, the stars in their eyes are not dimmed. The nun troupe is determined to give the bowlers a song-and-dance revue to remember. The show quickly goes sideways when the sisters discover a new Hollywood movie (the “Nunset Boulevard” of the title) is auditioning roles suited for nuns. To prepare for the casting call, the nuns pull out all the stops.
Each sister loves the spotlight, performing in her own style. Reverend Mother (played by Diane Gludovatz) has vaudeville in her veins, revelling in slapstick comedy. She gets the biggest sight gags, impersonating such famous Hollywood dames like Mae West. Sister Hubert (Terri Thompson) has a heart full of soul, a bluesy voice, and the rousing gospel number. Sister Robert Anne (Aimee Grice) belts out cabaret songs in her tough Brooklyn accent. Her risqué humour keeps Reverend Mother on her toes. Sister Amnesia (Chelsea Cameron-Horner) has been forgetful and naïve ever since a crucifix fell on her head. Her memory is in fine form however, when she sings country and MC’s the quiz show. Ambitious Sister Leo (Penelope Johnson) believes in her potential to be the convent’s “triple-threat” performer. The plot turns on her dream of breaking into show business with her singing, dancing and acting.
Hummable songs span the genres from ‘50s do-wop to cabaret, hip-hop to ballads, country twang to soul. Says Thompson, “I love the catchy music for all the songs. I find myself humming a different tune from the score every day.” The musical is packed with laughs including rapid-fire impressions of movie one-liners, a film quiz with prizes for the audience, and “The Price is Righteous” bowling game.
Ray Turner, who directed the original musical Nunsense, returns to the helm. Gludovatz reprises her hilarious turn as the Mother Superior. Johnson also returns although in a different role. While Nunset Boulevard is the sixth in the series, no previous knowledge of the nun’s escapades is required to enjoy their new antics. Music director Lisa Ante accompanies on piano and leads the small stage band.
Right now the cast is fine-tuning their many dance numbers. Choreographer Robin Stille is putting the nuns through their paces. Nuns doing Rockette kicks? They’re working on it. Gludovatz explains: “Dancing while singing harmonies does not come second nature to me… I know, shocking!” Johnson agrees: “There’s one number requiring us to sing and dance in wheelchairs. Not easy in a habit!”
Nunset Boulevard runs Friday November 21 and Saturday November 22 at OSS Theatre (Osoyoos); Friday November 28 and Saturday November 29 at Frank Venables Theatre (Oliver). Tickets are $18 advance, or $20 at the door, and are available at Sundance Video (Oliver) and Your Dollar Store with More (Osoyoos). All shows 8 p.m. Information and tickets for groups of ten or more: soap @ telus.net
Pictured: In this scene, the sisters are delighted to find a movie audition suited for singing nuns, a movie entitled “Nunset Boulevard”. Standing (L-R): Diane Gludovatz, Chelsea Cameron Horner, and Terri Thompson; seated (L-R) Aimee Grice and Penelope Johnson (with casting paper).