Jim Shine, the director of San Luis Obispo Little Theatre’s “Nuncrackers,” describes it as a “cheesy” musical comedy, and it’s an apt description. Silly, funny and occasionally poignant, it’s the Christmas chapter of the “Nunsense” series of plays by Dan Goggin.
In the basement of the convent of The Little Sisters of Hoboken, six nuns, Father Virgil and four children are getting ready to tape their first Christmas special for a cable access television station. The SLO Little Theatre audience is cast as the studio audience for the nuns’ show, so audience interaction is part of the fun, including a sing-along.
As the “taping” progresses, unforeseen events occur that change the character — and characters — of the program. The comedy ranges from naughty jokes to all-out slapstick, as the strong cast revels in the revelry.
Sister Julia, the convent cook, is missing when it’s her turn to perform the “Cavalcade of Christmas Cooking,” so Lester Wilson as Father Virgil dons an apron and begins to demonstrate how to mix a fruitcake (with lots of fruitcake jokes). He raises his voice to sound like Julia Child on steroids, and proceeds to tipple from the rum bottle until he topples from the stage.
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Wilson carries this slapstick persona through the rest of the show, even donning a tutu with the women when the nun who was due to dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy is indisposed. The pink tutus are a kick as they are worn over the traditional habits.
As the scenario develops, so do the personalities of the sisters. Anita Schwaber as the Reverend Mother is at first stern and wants to be in charge, but she cavorts and sings with the others in the music and dance numbers.
Allison Cebulla is Sister Robert Anne, a wannabe performer with a Brooklyn accent who loves the spotlight. She has a fine voice as she sings “All I Want for Christmas” (is a one-night stand in Carnegie Hall). Anna Romero, a familiar voice in Central Coast musicals, plays Sister Hubert, who leads the cast and the audience in a rousing gospel-style sing-along.
Debora Schwartz is the rather spacey Sister Mary Paul, nicknamed “Amnesia” because a crucifix once fell on her head, and Caroline Hoskins is Sister Mary Leo, a lively addition to the song-and- dance numbers of the company. Jordan Richardson is musical director.
The children in the cast, who are cute and sing and dance well, add special charm. They are Katherine Blauvelt, Christopher Jensen, Nadia Schwartz-Bolef and Michael White. They have some funny moments as their director Amnesia misinterprets some Christmas icons in a running joke that begins as they “come a waffling” (instead of wassailing).
The silliness goes on as the nuns sing a recruiting song about joining the convent that includes such perks as not having to worry about makeup or do your hair. The comedy includes a Catholic Home Shopping Service, offering such items as the “nunderbra” from St. Victoria’s Secret. There are a few off-color jokes and some gentle fun poked at Catholicism, as well as a few serious moments as childhood stories of memorable Christmases past are recalled.
Although it’s billed as a family musical, only older kids will get much of the humor. This is a lightweight holiday entertainment, corny, but fun. The audience sang and clapped along when cued, and laughed a lot.