Nuncrackers beats the holiday rush with one-stop shopping for hilarity. Welcome to the world of the Reverend Mother Mary Regina as she tries to bring to life The Nun Show, destined for Broadway but assigned to the local airwaves of cable access television.
The sisters from the Mount Saint Helen's School in Hoboken, N.J., are recording their Christmas special. This "fine-tuned performance" gets off to a shaky start as the star of the dance number, Sister Julia -- the infamous nun who unwittingly killed 52 sisters with a tainted soup in this play's predecessor, Nunsense -- sprains an ankle. Then the Christmas presents disappear, the police arrive and a family of 26 turns up.
Yep, it's crackers, but keeping with reality has never been a concern for writer and lyricist Dan Goggin. Nuncrackers is the fourth in the series he created starting in 1985 with Nunsense. The Colorado Springs Repertory Company (The Rep) at the Fine Arts Center beings this cheeky farce to life with an energetic performance by a bevy of talented performers.
The show continues the trend of placing familiar characters -- the overbearing Reverend Mother (Karen Vasil Carolan), an alcohol-friendly Reverend Father, a flirtatious Catholic schoolgirl and the playful innocents -- into unlikely situations. In this case, they do their best to put on a vaudeville-style musical.
The nuns include Sister Mary "Amnesia" (Laurie Gabriel), so named for the affliction she suffers after being hit on the head with a crucifix, who belts out a humorous country jig, "Santa Ain't Coming to Our House," yodels, plays the spoons and delivers some hilarious one-liners as she moves through the crowd playing Secret Santa.
Stage designer June Scott Barfield deserves kudos for a fantastic set. The two-level stage is an impressive sight, the upper level housing the band -- The Effervescent Elves -- and the lower, the television stage. Set into the walls are two television monitors relaying a transmission of the show, helping to maintain the conceit of a live broadcast. The stage is full of life, decorated with Christmas scenes and enhanced by moveable sets including Festive Foods Fantasy Frolics ("...and you thought nuns couldn't use the 'F' word!") cooking show and the Catholic home shopping network.
The show moves along at a jaunty pace, and though the dialogue slipped in a few spots the night we saw it, those moments were overshadowed by some fine performances. Highlights include the nuns as The Andrews Sisters harmonizing over the joys of Christmas shopping; "In the Convent" a Village People-style musical number; and a hilarious rendition of The Nutcracker with the Reverend Mother, standing in as the Sugar Plum Fairy, launching herself into some unlikely pirouettes. The audience was left gasping for air.
Another comedic high point is Father Virgil (Robert Lays) filling in as a cooking show host reminiscent of the Muppet Show's Swedish Chef -- a drunk priest, dressed as a nun, making a rum-soaked fruitcake; you get the picture.
Nuncrackers is a silly Christmas romp, nicely staged, a welcome riff on holiday madness.
-- Wayne Young
Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St
Nov. 19 through Dec. 12; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets in advance: members $22; nonmembers $24; $26 at the door