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Jewel Box's 'Nunsense' is 'holy' hilarious

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It feels like homecoming at Jewel Box Theatre right now. Kicking off its 50th season of shows, artistic director Chuck Tweed was able to gather nearly all of his original cast for its opener: a reprise of the theater's most produced show, "Nunsense." Even Mark Croston's original choreography is intact.

Writer Dan Goggin's comic crowd-pleaser deals with a catastrophe that the Little Sisters of Hoboken must deal with immediately: poisoned soup that results in the death of 52 nuns.

As unabashedly corny as most of the material is, it is imminently performable, and the cast at Jewel Box plays it like a calliope on wheels. Rev. Mother Regina is a signature role for Jewel Box veteran Pat Tweed. Her deadpan takes, comic timing and low, raspy voice provide a laugh-out-loud contrast with her Mother Superior standing.

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The ensemble keys off of her, but each engages with her own individual quirks and problems. Sister Mary Hubert features Francene Thomas, whose easy comic style and gorgeous voice make her a delight to watch.

Mary Freeh, who also has a fabulous set of singing pipes, is fun as befuddled Sister Mary Amnesia, who hasn't remembered anything since a crucifix conked her on the head.

Heather Cormack-Olive is a charming contrast as lively, streetwise Sister Robert Anne, who wears Converse high-tops under her nun's habit, and "just wants to be a star." Holding her own nicely is Alex Hall as toe-dancing Sister Mary Leo.

This is one of the few times that musicians actually have been brought onto the theater's small arena stage. Musical Director Tim Goff on piano and David Hester on percussion look like a small club combo and are even drawn into the action by the sisters.

"?Linda McDonald

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