Nunsense is growing in numbers -- and not just in the attendance at New York's 47th Street Theatre where the original 1985 musical-comedy recently began a somewhat revitalizing revival engagement (with an all-male cast and calling itself Nunsense A-Men!).
Its sequel -- Nunsense 2: The Second Coming-bowed in New York in 1995 and played in rep with the first show at the Douglas Fairbanks. The third installment -- Sister Amnesia's Country Western Nunsense Jamboree -- is still making the cross-country rounds, circling for a Manhattan opening.
That's the one in which Sister Amnesia has made a country-music recording and is on a promo tour. Vicki Lawrence taped this show at the Grand Ole Opry and it will be reaired on TNN at Thanksgiving. Brenda Lee is expected to tour it when her own concerts permit.
Is there a fourth installment in the works, you rightly might ask Dan Goggin, who directed these three as well as wrote their songs and book? "I hate to say it -- but yes," he sighs. "Every time I do one, I say, 'That's it,' but, for a long time now, the booking and licensing people have been after me to do a Christmas show, so I'm madly writing one now, almost as we speak."
He expects to premiere Nuncracker: The Nunsense Christmas Musical sometime in December at Minneapolis' Chanhassen Theatre, where Jamboree was launched. As for the plot: "The nuns have been asked to make a Christmas special, and this will be the first show done from the convent's basement television studio," says Goggin. "There will be five main characters -- including a priest I created for The Jamboree, Father Virgil -- and there'll be four little kids. If you do it in your community theatre, you can have 40 little kids.
"Basically, this show will be their Christmas concert, but there will also be a little underlying story about the presents being stolen from the convent. Everybody tries to figure out who stole them, and at the end they discover that Sister Amenesa has given them to a poor family. That way, we can end with big gospel number called 'It's Better to Give Than to Receive.'"
For additional conflict, the nun who was to dance the sugarplum fairy falls backstage and is sidelined, prompting Reverend Mother to take over for her. Unfortunately, Father Virgil decides the same thing, and both show up on stage at the same time as sugarplum fairies.
"The first act," says Goggin, "ends chaotically with this duel of sugarplum fairies. What I'm trying to do is maintain the Nunsense sense of humor. Sister Julia tells us how to make a fruitcake, 'the gift that lasts a lifetime.' As somebody says, 'If Eve had taken the apple and put it in a fruitcake, none of us would be in trouble 'cause no one would have ever eaten it.'"
-- By Harry Haun