Also see Richard's review of Wintertime
Those Little Sisters of Hoboken are at it again, and this time the nuns mix Jewish jokes into their two hour production. The fifth edition of the popular Nunsense series is Meshuggah-Nuns!, and it's having its west coast premiere at the Willows Theatre in Concord through December 31st. The innovator, Don Goggin, has been referred to as the Barry Manilow of Theater, and he directs this production with an all Equity cast.
The fun-loving nuns are on the USS Golden Delicious for a "Faith of all Nations" world cruise. The ship has run into a terrible storm that has lasted six days and most of the people have become seasick, including the cast of Fiddler on the Roof. The only exception is the Jewish actor Howard Liszt (Richard Frederick) who was playing Tevye. As a result, this leaves Anatevka a few shtetl dwellers short.
The USS Golden Delicious captain knows that the nuns are show business savvy and he requests that the Sisters and Howard put on an original revue. As a result, Jewish jokes, references and traditions mix with Catholic humor, positions and practice. Howard teams with the Reverend Mother (Amy L. Washburn), Sister Robert Anne (Diana Torres Koss), Sister Hubert (Cathleen Riddley) and Sister Amneisa (Mindy Stover), and all rise to the occasion.
Essentially, there is no plot and this becomes a two hour show with a magic act, a country western number and a lot of old vaudeville groaners involving both cultures. There is even a bingo game during intermission. Some of the "hit" songs are "Contrition" (based on Fiddler's "Tradition"), "If I Were a Catholic," "Three Shayna Maidels," "Say it in Yiddish," "Matzoh Man" ("Macho Man" takeoff) and the ever popular "The Potchky Polka." Wait until you see those nuns do a Klezmer dance to that music. There is even a big production number called "Das Boat," which parodies marine disasters from the Titanic to the The Poseidon Adventure (with Rev. Mother playing Shelley Winters in this scene). The nuns also sing a song that encompasses all of the song titles found in Fiddler.
Meshuggah-Nuns! has a very talented cast with first-rate singing voices who leave no gag or harebrained idea untried. Laugh In had nothing on these nuns. Amy L. Washburn is wonderful as the Rev. Mother, especially when she dons a costume over her habit to do a great impression of Sophie Tucker singing "My Fat Is My Fortune." Richard Frederick is very good in "Matzo Man" and is the voice of a nun hand puppet Mae West in "Come Up and See Me Sometime." Cathleen Riddley as Sister Hurbert really rocks in the final production number, "Rock the Boat," which ends the review with chutzpah.
Mindy Stover as Sister Amnesia is a hoot doing her amateur magic tricks, especially trying to get a rabbit out of a hat. Dianne Torres Koss as Sister Robert Ann finally gets to shine in her song "I'll Find a Song to Sing." She has great vocal chops.
Meshuggah-Nuns! runs through January 11 at the Willows Theatre, 1975 Diamond Blvd, Concord, Ca. For tickets call 925-798-1300 or visit www.willowstheatre.org.
The company opens their 2004 season with The Solid Gold Cadillac opening on January 26th.