There's something amusingly perverse about watching a musical on a stage in the basement of a Methodist Church that pokes fun at Catholicism and those eternal sources of humor: nuns.
Catholics shouldn't fear, however: "Nuncrackers" is a good-natured satire that is out to entertain, not offend. Aside from a few instances of somewhat bawdy humor, "Nuncrackers" is totally family friendly, full of silly and likable characters, crammed with copious amounts of wordplay, and packed to the gills with parodies of popular Christmas music.
"Nuncrackers" is the fourth musical in Dan Goggin's very popular "Nunsense" series, which chronicles the misadventures of a group of nuns from the order of the Little Sisters of Hoboken. In this particular installment, the sisters are attempting to film a Christmas special in their new basement television studio. The following story is fairly inconsequential, serving up the occasional bit of comedic chaos, an excuse to put a monk in drag, and a moral at the end of the story.
"Nuncrackers" is a demanding piece, but the actors rise to the occasion quite well, with everyone involved bringing something special into the mix. Taylor Newby gives an energetic performance as the spunky nun from Brooklyn, Sister Robert Anne. Shawna Linck is spot-on as the strict but lovable Reverend Mother. Pam Hoover brings just the right attitude to Sister Hubert, and while a little underused during the first act, she brings down the house with an incredible vocal performance in the rousing finale, "It's Better to Give." Charlie Monnot delivers a light and entertaining turn as the gentle Father Virgil, until exploding with silliness during a cooking show segment where he overindulges in the sauce.
GOOFILY RADIANT PORTRAYAL
Leah Coleman sets herself apart with her goofily radiant portrayal of Sister Mary Amnesia, the nun who lost her memory after a crucifix fell on her head. Most of the best moments in "Nuncrackers" involve her character in some way, including a partially improvised game of Secret Santa played with the audience and a repeated gag involving her leading the children in singing bungled versions of Christmas carols.
Poteet has made a practice of regularly featuring large casts of young performers with very positive results. The 20 youngsters who portray the students of Mount Saint Helen's School are essential to the success of the production, filling out the dance numbers, providing supporting vocals and portraying a number of different characters throughout.
Another area that Poteet once again excels is its art design. The first act of any Poteet production begins as you descend the stairs and are greeted by a series of elegant lobby displays that effectively set the tone for the production before you ever enter the theater. Inside the theater, the fantastic set "? which extends out and around the audience "? really sells the idea of the basement television studio. The costume design, staging and choreography are all also top-notch.
The production isn't perfect; it could stand to lose a couple of the weaker musical numbers. One of the improvisational segments went on a little long and the snow machine, while a great idea, is so loud that it overwhelms the music. Lastly, the puppet, Sister Mary Annette, is never as funny as she should be.
These are minor complaints, however. I can say with no reservation that "Nuncrackers" is a unique theatergoing experience that promises a night of merriment and joy to all.