a kate west review
written and directed by Dan Goggin
at Theatre West,
3333 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 90068
January 20, 2005 for 7 weeks only
contact (323) 851-7977 or

Singing and dancing nuns are always funny, especially to lapsed Catholics, so the musical “Nunsense” is inevitably a crowd pleaser. On the other hand it can also come across a bit tired as in Theatre West’s latest production of this perennial favorite starring stage veterans Betty Garrett (best known as the feisty landlady on television’s “Laverne and Shirley”), Bridget Hanley, Barbara Mallory, Lee Meriwether (one of the sexy elite chosen to play Catwoman back in the day), Rhonda Stovey and Sandra Tucker.

The cast is delightful, each member a gifted and experienced actress who knows how to hold an audience in the palm of her hand, yet even they almost cannot overcome the trite material. The story begins with the Little Sisters of Hoboken holding a fundraiser to bury four of their order who succumbed to bad soup, now sitting in kitchen refrigerators. The rest of the story is simply variety numbers, one after the other, until random coincidences solve all of the problems in a rather flimsy manner.

Each nun has a solo number in the spotlight, usually reflecting her inner desires and musings. Lee Meriwether shines as Sister Robert Anne, the street-smart nun from Brooklyn whose effortless banter and fantastic stage presence hold the audience captive. She is truly the best thing in the show, a terrific lady and consummate entertainer. She’s old school. Betty Garrett is endearingly sweet as Sister Julia, the cook who poisoned her fellow sisters and can’t seem to get back on the right track although the new material written especially for her seems a bit forced. Writer/Director Dan Goggin might have been better off giving the script a complete overhaul. Mother Superior is Sandra Tucker as Sister Regina, who oversees the whole evening and has an amusing “drunk” scene. The rest of the cast, Bridget Hanley, Barbara Mallory and Rhonda Stovey are also strong and take turns addressing the audience and upholding the reality of a local high school benefit show.

One of the more distracting elements is the set by Joseph M. Altadonna and Daniel Keough. It is the set of “Grease,” supposedly left there by the high school students who are allowing the sisters to hold a benefit on their off night. It would have been much better had the stage been simply a high school auditorium setting. As it is, the background does not fit in with the story. Also the constant topical references and inside jokes grow a bit tedious. The company is obviously thrilled to be working with local celebrities but we don’t need to be reminded of it every other scene. All in all, the women are greatly entertaining but the show is a little too long. It is amusing to have them venture into the audience every once in a while, turn on the lights and talk to us but the show can be half as long and still tell its simple story. The silly resolution at the end is quite sudden and again, rather far-fetched. If you can sit through the evening, be my guest. The women are worth it but the story is not.

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