New Nunsense is best yet and Christmas Ballet is coming your way!

Dan Goggins indicated this past Friday night, that in least one sense, there is nothing quite like “Nunsense”,especially when it comes to delivering salvation! Salvation for Community Theater finances that is! He went on to express his gratefulness for the appreciative audiences that have continually subscribed to the “Nunsense” theatrical franchise. Goggin revealed in his post show remarks to the celebratory audience, that his highly successful musicals seem to work very well for small town theater companies. He stated that his musical franchise has literally saved over 100 community theaters across the country from financial ruin. There are many companies who were very nearly on the verge of financial disaster until they subscribed to the wacky antics of Dan Goggin’s “little Sisters from the Mt. St. Helen’s missionary order based in Hoboken New Jersey”.

What is it about these cabaret style, corny comedy musicals that repeatedly poke innocent fun at life under the banner of Catholicism, with productions that repeatedly brings back Nunsense devotees, year after year, show after show?

The first local production of Nunsense, directed by Mr. Goggin himself, was produced by the Willows Theater Company in Concord, in a former bowling alley turned theater venue in the late 80’s. It was outrageously funny and struck a very familiar chord to the many theater goers who also apparently remembered their life in Catholic Schools, and were subject to the stringent dictates of the strict and un-appeasing, all powerful teaching nuns. Now, the latest Nunsense offering, “Nunset Boulevard”, also takes place in a bowling alley environment as the Nuns bring their latest fund raising benefit tour to the foothills of Hollywood.

The original “Nunsense” off-Broadway production in the Cherry Lane Theater opened in December of 1985, moved to the Douglas Fairbanks Theater where it ran for 3,672 performances, and wasthe second-longest running official Broadway Show in history, second only to the “Fantastics”. It has been translated into 26 languages, with more than 8000 productions world-wide, grossing over $500 million for the franchise. The off-Broadway productions and resulting movie spin-offs have included and embraced such well known stars as Phyllis Diller, Sally Struthers, JoAnne Worley, Edie Adams, Kaye Ballard and many others.

“Nunset Boulevard”, The Nunsense Hollywood Bowl Show, is the seventh and newest and perhaps best in the Nunsense theatrical series. It opened its West Coast premiere on the Willows Main stage Theater in the Willows Shopping Center in Concord this past week. This 25 year old ongoing comic saga started off with a rather bizarre tale of an accidental food poisoning incident that did away with 52 members of their original order. Then, in order to finalize the burial of the last four remaining sisters (stored in a walk-in refrigerator while the funds were being accumulated), the convent had to come up with a fund raising scheme, which ultimately necessitated a home-spun variety show in which the remaining healthy nuns participated. The show was a great success, which in turn morphed into the next Nunsense show, entitled “Nunsense II, the Second Coming!” In this production, the Little Sisters of Hoboken stage another variety show to show their gratitude to the original show-goers when they are interrupted by two Franciscan monks showing up at the convent to claim and retain (for their order’s own good ) Sister Mary Amnesia, who they believe has won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. This show eventually, several years later, spins off into “Sister Mary Amnesia’s Country Western Jamboree”, which is presented as a musical stop on the promotional tour for the nun's new album, “I Could've Gone to Nashville”, which is released shortly after Sister Mary Amnesia regains her memory and discovers that she really is “Sister Mary Paul”, a former country singing talent. A few years later, this show is followed by “Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical”, which is then, after a suitable period, followed by “Meshuggah-Nuns!”, and then eventually by “Nunsensations: The Nunsense Vegas Revue”. Now, finally, 25 years after the original concept show came into being, this current show, “Nunset Boulevard”, The Nunsense Hollywood Bowl Show, delivers the Nuns on the theatrical fund raising road again!

Over the years, the jokes just seemed to get more and more lame, to the point that I really was not looking forward to seeing another “Nunsense” show. But boy was I wrong with this show! Goggin is now fully back on track with a brilliantly funny, well-crafted show. In fact, this may be the best one yet. The lyrics in this show are touching, meaningful, poignant, and they are just plain enjoyable! The five nuns who now take the “little Sisters from the Mt. St. Helen’s missionary order” to the Hollywood Bowl, are exceptionally gifted, professional performers in every respect singing, acting, dancing and even schlepping the jokes! In other words, they are excellent in moving the high fructose comedy right along with carefully calculated purpose and just plain old fashioned “you can’t help but love them” style.

In “Nunset Boulevard”, the nonsensical Nuns have moved on to Hollywood after having been scammed by the same guy who tricked them into appearing in a motel lounge in Las Vegas. Well, the famous Hollywood Bowl concert venue in which they thought they would be appearing, turns out to be the “Hollywood Bowl-A-Rama”, a bowling alley with an adjacent cabaret theater instead. Once again, the happy hokey Nuns from Hoboken make the best of a bad situation, all the while, secretly hoping to get a taste of potential stardom, maybe even a chance at a real screen test. Plot? - - - there is no plot, not in these shows, just plain unadulterated fun. Well, once again, five very funny Nuns make this madcap musical comedy an evening of simple silly fun, and perhaps, your best bet yet for the likes of the wacky Sisters of Hoboken!

Deborah Del Mastro plays Sister Robert Anne, Linda Dorsey becomes Sister Hubert, Juliet Heller is wonderful as Sister Leo, Alexandra Kapriellan is delightful as Sister Amnesia and Amy Washburn is brilliant, learned and lucid as the not-so-insightful Mother Superior! I think this group’s voices are the best cross section yet of professional level performance artists in any of these Nunsense shows, at least according to what I remember. The music is so good that I even recommend purchasing the musical CD of the show. The shameless numbers include one entitled “The Hollywood Blonds, a sort of backhanded tribute to the great blond ladies of the silver screen, or should I say, the silver scream! The costumes by Sharon Bell in this number are far different than anything you have ever seen in a Nunsense show. They are an absolute riot and the five ladies who pull it all together are the three ring musical masters of this number. Funny, funny, funny, Wow, I loved it!

The Willows musical orchestrations are under the expert direction of Kim Vetterli, orchestrations which are so well designed, it seems as if this three person combo is more numerous than they are in reality. It is a pleasure to have a real orchestra and in this production, the company has stepped up to the plate and invested in a much higher quality speaker and microphone system. The quality of this sound system is a resounding success, far better than anything I have ever heard in this theatre, or any other similar sound systems in the nearby area theatrical venues. The sound system is actually a big plus, another reason to see this remarkable show.

This outrageously funny and rewarding production, “Nunset Boulevard”, continues in the Willows Main Stage Theater in Concord, in the Willows Shopping Center, located at1975 Diamond Boulevard in Concord, next door to REI Sporting Goods, through January 15th. Performances are on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., with Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m., plus matinees on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m., on Saturdays at 2 p.m., and again on Sundays at 3 p.m.. Call 798-1300 or visit the web site for more information and ticket sales on line. The theater ticket sales are only made on line or at the Daytime Box office at 115 Tarantino Drive in Martinez. Tickets which range in price between $28 and $34 are very reasonable and can be picked up at the Will Call Box Office in the theater in the Willows Shopping Center.

If you love ballet, then there is no way you should miss the Smuin “Christmas Ballet”, 2011 Edition! There will be two distinct acts; a classy Classical Christmas act and a COOL Christmas act, bursting out with every conceivable modern dance enhancement. From tap, to ballet, to jazz, holiday flavors will runneth over from your joyous Christmas cup! Choreographers Amy Seiwert and Robert Sund will add their artistic expertise to the eclectic mix of time-honored favorites and fabulously innovative additions. Sund’s articulate addition will include a gospel and soulful inspiring tribute to the Mahalia Jackson touch that melds with the out-of-sight dance formulation in “Oh, Holy Night”. This up passionate addition will resonate with Christmas spirit and embrace the wonderful soulful sounds of this special music. Included in the spirit-lifting mix, you will enjoy “Carol of the Bells”, “Sleigh Ride”, and even a rock-n-roll version of “Santa Baby” and, of course, you will delight in many other seasonal favorites as well.

Under the artful direction of Celia Fushille, this show will embrace your Christmas spirit heartstrings while the passion of the dance will embrace the stirrings of your inward desire to dance along with the many artistic talents in toe or tap or jazz mode!

Smuin Ballet continues to support its relationship with “Toys for Tots”, and with each new, unwrapped gift brought to the box office, Smuin will provide a reward to the gift bearer in the form of 25 % off every ticket he or she purchases for the 8 pm show on November 26th in Walnut Creek. If you decide to attend the show in San Francisco, Mountain View or Carmel, similar rewards will await you there. Please visit their website at for more information and details. The shows in Walnut Creek are on November 25th and 26th, at 8 pm on Friday and Saturday evenings, and at 2 pm at Saturday’s matinee. Call the Lesher Regional Center for the Arts at 943-7469 to reserve tickets as well. The Smuin Christmas Ballet is a joyful and uplifting Christmas experience every year. I plan to be there and you should too!