Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Arizona Broadway Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's review of My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra

Blair Beasley, Alexia Lorch, Kathi Osborne,
Renée Kathleen Koher, and Liz Fallon

Photo by Kat Barnes
Nunsense, the musical comedy about a group of nuns putting on a fundraiser, has been a continual favorite for theatregoers since first opening Off-Broadway in 1985. Written by Dan Goggin, it features five juicy roles, a lot of charm, and an abundance of hijinks. It even inspired a holiday edition, subsequent all-male and larger cast versions of the show, and was filmed for TV. When you have five talented actresses to take on these hilarious roles, as Arizona Broadway Theatre has in their production that runs through May 16, you can see how this show has been making audiences around the world laugh for more than 35 years.

While it's a comedy, the plot of Nunsense focuses on the serious plight of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who are raising funds to bury a few of their sisters who recently died. A deadly bout of food poisoning has caused 52 of their sisters to die after they consumed a bowl of tainted vichyssoise made by their cook, Sister Julia, Child of God. The Sisters ran out of money after burying 48 of the group when their Mother Superior decided to also purchase a large screen plasma TV. So, short on funds and with four sisters on ice in the freezer, they've decided to put on a fundraiser to obtain the necessary cash to bury the last of the deceased sisters.

Goggin crafted wacky characters and a fun plot, though the score is mostly forgettable. However, there are a few toe-tapping tunes along with a lot of humor that make the show a charming crowd-pleaser, and it's easy to see why it ran for over 3,600 performances Off-Broadway and is continually produced by regional theatres.

While all five of the main characters are basically stereotypes, Goggin has given plenty of dimension to each one, so they are also realistic, fleshed-out women. Director Kurtis Overby has cast the show with five exceptional actresses who all ensure there is plenty of humor and charm in their performances. They also all look like they are having a blast. Overby's choreography provides some fun dance steps for the show.

As the Reverend Mother, Kathi Osborne has the correct stern and fierce delivery to depict the demanding woman in charge of the convent. She has a commanding stage presence and also does wonderful double-takes whenever Reverend Mother disapproves of something one of the other nuns does, which is quite often. Blair Beasley is simply lovely as Sister Hubert, the nun who often questions the Reverend Mother's actions. Beasley's powerful singing voice shines throughout, especially in the finale, "Holier Than Thou." Renée Kathleen Koher is hilarious as Sister Amnesia, the nun who lost her memory after being hit on the head by a falling crucifix. Her humorous body movements and "deer caught in the headlights" glare perfectly depict this lost and confused woman. Her solo number, "So You Want to Be a Nun," also shows off Koher's very good ventriloquist abilities. She makes every joke a winner. Liz Fallon is equally as good as the streetwise sister from Brooklyn who yearns to be a star. Her solo, "I Just Want to be a Star," is packed full of humor and her singing voice soars. She also has a quite impressive Brooklyn accent. In the slightly smaller role of the sister who loves the ballet, Alexia Lorch is an absolute sweetheart.

Overby does a nice job of keeping the nature of the show upbeat and the pace moving, though the scene in which Mother Superior sniffs something illegal could be trimmed a bit, or tightened, as the joke runs its course but the scene keeps on going. Also, the line about the cook being "Sister Julia, Child of God," which is repeated a few times, has the pause in the wrong place, so the joke doesn't exactly land. Lottie Dixon's costumes, while they are simple habits and wimples, are still fun, and Rob Watson's bright and colorful lighting adds some variety to the show. Overby also provides the music direction, and the cast deliver lovely solos and harmonies throughout.

Nunsense is a warm, witty and humorous show. With five gifted actresses who deliver winning performances, Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting a charming and fun, crowd-pleasing production of this beloved hit musical comedy.

Arizona Broadway Theatre is adhering to all state and local safety guidelines for this and all of their upcoming productions. As Phoenix's only dinner theatre, they've found a way to successfully bring back the idea of "dinner and a show" at this time by separating the dining and performance experiences and temporarily locating the pre-show dining experience in the large ABT lobby space and limiting the dining capacity to 75. The socially distanced tables provide a complete feeling of safety. Face masks are required by all patrons during the show portion of the evening in ABT's main stage venue.

Nunsense runs through May 16, 2021, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ. Tickets can be ordered at or by calling 623-776-8400.

Director/ Choreography/ Music Direction: Kurtis Overby
Lighting Design: Rob Watson
Sound Design: Kimberlee Christiansen
Costume Design: Lottie Dixon
Production Manager: Rob Watson
Stage Manager: Nickela Rooney

Sister Mary Regina, Mother Superior: Kathi Osborne Sister Mary Hubert, Mistress of Novices: Blair Beasley Sister Robert Anne: Liz Fallon Sister Mary Amnesia: Renée Kathleen Koher Sister Mary Leo: Alexia Lorch