Sally Struthers returns to Riverside in ‘Nunsense the Musical’ | Arts & Theater
By JESSE SCOTT
Legendary actress Sally Struthers returns to the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts for her seventh on-site engagement.
This time she is playing the role of Mother Superior in the hilarious and offbeat musical “Nunsense”. The show kicked off on Wednesday and will run until July 10.
“We did this show in 2008, but there are big differences here,” says Patrick A’Hearn, Artistic Director of Production at Riverside. “The biggest being that we never had it with Sally Struthers and this wonderful cast.”
The brainchild of writer and composer Dan Goggin, the story of “Nunsense” centers on five nuns known as the Little Sisters of Hoboken. These characters include the spotlight-loving Mother Superior, the often competitive Sister Mary Hubert, the tough and edgy Sister Robert Anne, the ultra-spacy Sister Mary Amnesia, and the aspiring nun-ballerina Sister Mary Leo.
The nuns are thrown into a daze after dozens of their sisters are accidentally poisoned by their school’s cook. To help fund their sisters’ funerals, they decide to put on a variety show. Although, yes, seemingly dark in nature, the review is pure hilarity and packed with tunes and dances.
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Since opening on Broadway in 1985, there have been several “Nunsense” sequels, spanning a Christmas-themed “Nuncrackers”, “Nunsensations: The Nunsense Vegas Revue”, and an all-male version known as “Nunsense Amen”.
“Audiences seem to absolutely love this show,” Struthers says. “I guess it’s silly and delicious to see women dressed like penguins.”
The Riverside engagement isn’t Struthers’ first rodeo with “Nunsense.” Around 2008, she performed on the production’s 25th anniversary tour and, well, it wasn’t the most positive experience, mostly due to a hectic touring schedule and related logistics.
“I actually swore never to do that show again,” Struthers says. “But a year ago, [Patrick A’Hearn] and I was talking about it, and I absolutely can’t resist Patrick. In fact, if he told me to wear a duck outfit and dance in traffic, I probably would. I love this man and I love Fredericksburg too.
As Struthers signed off on the series and casting began, she successfully pleaded for A’Hearn to play the role of Sister Mary Amnesia – the aptly named nun who lost her memory thanks to a crucifix falling on her head – to his former teammate “Nunsense”. , Jeanne Tinker.
“You won’t get a better actress than Jeanne,” says Struthers. “I’ve seen actresses try to play this role, but she does it so brilliantly and touches the hearts of all the viewers. It’s joyful to be with her again and the whole cast here is just as delightful.
Tinker’s love for “Nunsense” spans from the first time she saw it – at the Charles Playhouse in Boston – to engagements in Connecticut, New York, and touring nationally with Struthers. Over the years, she also remained friends with Goggin. The Riverside show marks its first performance in Fredericksburg and its first post-pandemic engagement.
“I’ve always played Sister Mary Amnesia and still have fun with it,” says Tinker. “She kind of reminds me of Kramer from ‘Seinfeld’, always appearing, having good one-offs and disappearing. It’s kind of fun.
Local production is led by Riverside mainstay Patti D’Beck. A’Hearn says D’Beck worked directly with Goggin on this show, coordinating everything from costume rentals to production treats.
Visually, people are greeted with simple decor that resembles a small stage in a Catholic school gymnasium. Throughout the show, the five nuns sing and dance as a group of four perform live tunes. The jams are catchy and appropriately titled, including “So You Want to be a Nun”, “Just a Coupl’a Sisters”, and “Holier Than Thou”.
“We’re doing this one right and all the pieces are there,” says A’Hearn. “That’s pretty much how ‘Nunsense’ was meant to be.”
A’Hearn says more than 5,000 tickets have been sold for the “Nunsense” engagement so far. So don’t count on a last-minute miracle to land tickets to the hottest, holiest show in town.
Jessee Scott contributes to The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star.