The Column Online



by Dan Goggin

Garland Civic Theatre

Sister Mary Regina, Mother Superior: Patty Granville
Sister Mary Hubert, Mistress of Novices: Xavier Burns
Sister Robert Anne: Francine Simpson
Sister Mary Amnesia: Rachel Marie Starkey
Sister Mary Leo: Adelaide Willert

Keyboard: Evan Figg
Bass: Bill Zauner
Drums: Jaren Lorenz

Director/Choreographer: Andi Allen
Producer: David Tinney
Musical Director: Erin McGrew Hendon
Stage Manager/Props Cheryl Pellett
Set Designer: Juan M. Perez
Costumes: Kerra Sims
Lighting Designer: Theresa Clapper
Master Carpenter: Edgar Hernandez
Spot Operators: Elizabeth Pellett, Brittany Mantsch
Light Board Operator: Morgan Lemay

Reviewed Performance: 4/25/2019

Reviewed by Stacey Upton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

You don’t need to be a Catholic to enjoy this musical that takes the form of a song-and-dance review show. It’s stood the test of time, having made its off-Broadway debut nearly 34 years ago. The order of the “Little Sisters of Hoboken” are currently represented by five nuns who are survivors of an accidental fatal food poisoning incident that wiped out 52 women in their convent. The remaining nuns have held auditions and the best of the performers are putting on the show to raise funds to bury the last four nuns. As Mother Superior says, “We’ve got to get those gals out of the freezer.” Dressed in their black and white habits, they show up in the aisles even before the show begins, chatting up members of the audience. They also occasionally move off the stage to sing and award prizes during the show, although thankfully not to the point of forced audience participation. It’s all in good fun, and on the preview night reviewed, the nearly-full house was roaring with laughter and had a fine time throughout.

This production of Dan Goggin’s musical comedy is a friendly, lighthearted and entertaining affair. Andi Allen, the director and choreographer, has stuck to the original material as opposed to throwing in any updated references – fortunately the ones from 34 years ago are so well-known you won’t wonder what is being talked about. Her stage direction has the nuns moving nearly all the time, the show is never dull. Music direction by Erin McGrew Hendon was outstanding – the five women playing the convent nuns sing beautifully in harmony and in solos, and the choice to have a live band made the proceedings even better. The nuns are producing their benefit variety show on the set left over from the 8th grade school production of “Grease”, and the design by Juan Perez adapts itself in a fun way to the proceedings. Lights designed by Theresa Clapper are good, including fun use of follow spots. Costuming by Kerra Sims is also effective, and allows the women to move through their numerous dance numbers with ease. Although its premise involves 52 unfortunate deaths, “Nunsense” is mainly about having a good time – you’ll enjoy strong ensemble singing, puppetry, tap dancing, and a few pretty good Catholic jokes thrown in too.

Sister Mary Regina, the take-charge Mother Superior is winningly portrayed by local theatre legend Patty Granville. Granville is a “trouper” in the best sense of the word. She sells her songs and her jokes with grace and ease. It’s fun to watch this wonderful actress effortlessly glide through the role. Sister Mary Hubert is her second in command and, in an engaging portrayal by Xavier Burns, chafes at the lower position. Burn’s moments have a fun snarky undertone to them, and her closing number, “Holier Than Thou” had the audience happily clapping along. Sister Mary Leo is a novice who wants to become a ballerina. In a gracefully goofy performance as Sister Mary Leo, Adelaide Willert sings beautifully, and impressively dances on pointe in a number called “Benedicite.” Her pure charm adds much to the proceedings.

Sister Mary Amnesia is a nun who cannot remember her name — or anything else — since a crucifix fell on her head. Rachel Marie Starkey is a delight in this role, and her interaction with the audience works very well. Starkey has a fun number with a puppet, and another standout was her solo song, “I Could’ve Gone to Nashville,” which showcased her outstanding voice and range. Sister Robert Anne is a gal from a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn who loves to crack jokes and do impersonations. Not to give anything away, but Francine Simpson’s impersonation of Princess Leia is hilarious. She wants a bigger part in the variety show, and one of her songs is “I Just Want to Be a Star,” which was touching as well as entertaining. Simpson has a big, fabulous voice and appears to be having a wonderful time in the role. She was a beacon of energy throughout the production. Garland Civic Theatre is a relaxed venue to see a show. It has free parking right outside the doors, the staff is incredibly welcoming, and the seats are comfortable. You’ll laugh, tap your toes, maybe win a prize, and generally have a great time with your friends and family at “Nunsense.” It’s easy to see from this production why a tag for this enduring show is: “Nunsense is indeed habit-forming.”

Performances: April 25th-May 12th
Granville Arts Center, 300 North 5th St. Garland TX 75040
Purchase tickets: or 972.205.2790