WEYAUWEGA, Wisconsin (WFRV) – Here’s a special theatrical equation: Faith + humor = “Nunsense.”
This magical mixture is particularly evident at the Gerold Opera House as the Waupaca Community Theater launches “Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical” in four performances.
The show is part of a series from creator Dan Goggin about a fictional order of Roman Catholic nuns who always seem to put on a show. This one is like the nuns are full stars on a cable TV show. It’s something that hardly exists anymore, but the outcome of the opening night vote on Thursday would likely be “Who cares?” It’s funny!”
Singing sisters. Dancing sisters. Puppets. Children in the cast. Crazy costumes. More grumbling puns. Life lessons. A wide range of styles of humor. A live orchestra with musicians dressed as sisters (in nun’s veil) and a brother. Original songs. Sing-along. Small quizzes. Big laughs. Sensitive stuff. Sacred cow, this show is packed.
There’s even a TV showing the action on stage from an internal camera that’s part of the TV show illusion.
The Waupaca Community Theater project is impressive – big and elaborate and brimming with talent. The cast clicks experienced as co-directors / choreographers Liz Kelley and Linda Trepasso let their imaginations run wild. Strong points:
+ A recreation of “The Nutcracker Ballet” – complete but fractured story. The Reverend Mother (Lori Zelinske) dances in a puffy pink skirt while Father Virgil (Dean Sondrol) tries to gain attention because of this other highlight:
+ Dressed and speaking in a squeaky voice as Julia Child of God (a tease to beloved chef Julia Child), Father Virgil cooks a Christmas fruit cake recipe with rum that he bites… and bites… and bites – and ends up wandering off.
+ A “Secret Santa” routine with Sister Mary Paul – Sister Amnesia (Kira Morrissey) who interviews randomly selected audience members on catechism type questions. One award is a set of ten commandments adhesive. “If you don’t like a (commandment),” Sister Amnesia advises, “you can just take it and throw it away. Kira Morrissey has a knack for interacting with people spontaneously – as if it comes naturally.
+ Pieces with hand puppets (made to measure), with harmonization and song.
+ “The little teapot of Santa Claus”, a picturesque song sung by the five young people who carry boards of bodies forming part of a teapot… which infiltrates. Young people are as sensitive to humor and action as adults.
+ Luster of voices in story songs, notably by Lori Zelinske (Mother Superior) in “A Carnival Christmas”, Lori Bauer (Sister Robert Anne) in “Jesus Was Born in Brooklyn” and Carmen Riebel (Sister Mary Hubert) in, bluesy finale filled with “Better give.” “
+ Malaprops from Sister Amnesia (Kira Morrissey), who goes out regularly with props and kids sing Christmas carols with the wrong words. On the one hand, “The Waffle Song” (with waffles on sticks) instead of “The Wassail Song”.
+ Messages. Creator Dan Goggin – who makes his shows quite original – always weaves layers of warmth and cuteness. That goes in addition for this Christmas spectacle.
The theater, which was packed Thursday night, was buzzing from the start. I think part of it was the adventure of being in the historic opera Gerold.
Another story: Years ago – in the last century, in 1997 – I had the opportunity to interview Dan Goggin in association with a production of “Nunsense II” in the Green Bay area. “The characters are based on five real nuns who know who they are and are huge fans of the show as well,” he said. “It’s based on their sense of humor and how they would handle some of these crazy situations. It really is real life. This is not parody. It’s the fun side of nuns as I saw them and grew up with them.
Duration of operation: Two hours 18 minutes
Remaining performance: 7:10 p.m. – Dec. 11 and 2 p.m. Dec. 12
To note: Masks are mandatory for members of the public due to COVID-19 considerations.
Creative: Book, Music and Lyrics – Dan Goggin; co-directors – Liz Kelley and Linda Trepasso; musical coordinator / conductor – Linda Trepasso; choreography – Liz Kelley and Linda Trepasso; accompanist in rehearsal – Wanda Eikenbary; set construction – Marcel Van Camp; sound and lighting design – John Kelley, Eric Conner and Ian Teal; costumes – Gretchen Kelley; puppet building – John Kelley; artistic conception – Lily Zabler; sound and lighting technicians – Holly Saunders and Spencer Sondrol; projector – Hannah Kelley
Sister Mary Regina, Reverend Mother – Lori Zelinske
Sister Mary Hubert – Carmen Riebel
Sister Robert Anne – Lori Bauer
Sister Mary Paul A.KA. Amnesia – Kira Morrissey
Father Virgil Manly Trot – Dean Sondrol
Sister Mary Leo – Kay Ellingson
Camera Operator – Gracie Liegl
Students of Mount Saint Helena
Louise Mayfield – Isabella Saunders
Maria Montini – Keira Konkol
Billy Wilson – Emmett Danielson
Jamie Kelly – Allison Landre
Katie Peterson – Lili Liegl
Orchestra: Linda Trepasso (conductor), Wanda Eikenbary (piano), Emily Sipiorski (violin), Emily Block (keyboards), John Kelley (drums and percussion)
“Christmas time is the time of nonsense” – Reverend Mother, Sisters Hubert, Robert Anne, Amnesia, Leo and Father Virgil
“Joy to the World (The Cat’s Away)” – Students
“Little Santa’s teapot” – Students
“Twelve Days Before Christmas” – Sister Mary Annette (Robert Anne) with Sisters Hubert and Amnesia and Father Virgil
“The Christmas Box” – Father Virgil
“Santa Ain’t Comin ‘to Our House” – Sister Amnesia with Sisters Hubert and Robert Anne and Father Virgil
“The Wassail Song” – Sister Amnesia and students
“A Carnival Christmas” – Reverend Mother
“Holly and Ivy” – Sister Amnesia and students
“The Nutcracker Ballet” – The Small Hallelujah Orchestra of Hoboken
“Three Hundred and Sixty-Four Days” – Reverend Mother, Sisters Hurbert, Robert Anne and Amnesia
“Jesus was born in Brooklyn” – Sister Robert Ann, with Sisters Hubert and Amnesia, Father Virgil and students
“At the Convent” – Reverend Mother, Sisters Hubert, Robert Ann and Amnesia
“The Three Kings” – Sisters Hubert, Robert Ann and Amnesia
“The First Christmas” – Sister Amnesia and students
“Everything I Want for Christmas” – Sister Robert Anne
“Christmas Sing Along” – Sisters Hubert, Robert Ann, Amnesia and Leo, Father Virgil, students and audience
“A Whole New School” – Reverend Mother, Sisters Hubert, Robert Ann, Amnesia and Leo and Father Virgil
“Better to Give” – Sister Hubert with Reverend Mother, Father Virgil, Sisters Robert Ann, Amnesia and Leo and students
FOLLOWING: AR Gurney’s “Love Letters” and Bill Corbett and Kira Oblensky’s “Hate Mail” for dinner theater, February 11-13.
THE PLACE: Located at 136 E. Main St. in downtown Weyauwega, the Gerold Opera House was built in 1915. The building has had many lives, and the main ones have been an auditorium, a movie theater and a gathering place for weddings, dances and auctions. . Inside is a spacious room for about 250 people. The audience enters from the right rear. To the rear left is a bar. At the front is a proscenium stage (flat face) with royal red curtains. The ground is flat and made of good quality maple. The walls are beige fiberboard with the appearance of large blocks on top, with a fringe of dark wood and a dark red below. Along the walls are sections of red leather theater seating, with wooden armrests and a metal frame. The high ceiling – approximately 2 ½ stories high – is cream in color and may be an imitation of historic patterned pewter. The eight ceiling lights are in patterned frosted glass. A balcony on the second level is preceded by a dark wood balustrade. Some seats are available. A projection booth is located at the rear.