NextStop Theatre Company is currently performing Nunsense A-Men! — a hilarious piece with the same storyline and characters as Dan Goggin’s musical comedy Nunsense, which premiered Off-Broadway in 1985. Only this version has five men in drag portraying the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who are putting on a charity event to raise money to bury their poor deceased Sisters, who were accidentally poisoned by a tainted vichyssoise, prepared by their cook, Sister Julia, Child of God.
Andrew JM Regiec directed this zany musical with choreography by Stefan Sittig and scenic design by Jack Golden.
The Sisters perform at a middle school theater that the nuns have borrowed for their variety show, with the promise that the theater department’s current Grease background remains untouched. A live “Interfaith Band” sits on the elevated stage, with Musical Director and keys player Elisa Rosman, drummer Dakota Kaylor, and bass player Abraham Walter. A small set of stairs leads to the lower downstage area, with a bed on one side and a jukebox next to a small counter with stools on the other, giving off a ’50s vibe.
Harv Lester plays the imposing Mother Superior with much pomp and is the emcee of the glorified talent show. Upon entering, she promptly throws a towel to cover the lifesize cutout of a scantily clad Marilyn Monroe, with a subdued giggle
Sylvern Groomes Jr. is Mother Superior’s second in command, Sister Hubert, who is the most level-headed of the eccentric group. Groomes and Lester work this relationship well and have a snippy but innocent dynamic. Groomes’ Sister Hubert repeatedly reminds everyone of an extravagant purchase Mother Superior made, which is the reason there are not enough funds left to bury their remaining Sisters.
Patrick Payne plays the endearing (in a bless her heart kinda way) Sister Amnesia. Payne is delightful as the blissfully unaware Amnesia. She floats in and out of scenes often forgetting, well… everything but always smiling and bringing love where she goes.
The Brooklyn-born, street-wise Sister Robert Anne is portrayed by Ben Ribler, who perfects the less polished, but passionate energy of the reformed deviant. And Benjamin Campion does a lovely job as Sister Leo, with her love of dancing that sometimes turns a little too racy for the other Sisters.
The score is packed with outlandish and wickedly funny songs like “Nunsense Is Habit Forming” at the top of the production. Payne, singing Sister Amnesia’s “So You Want to Be a Nun,” along with her foul-mouthed puppet, Sister Mary Annette, elicits cackles from the audience with the puppetry and impressive vocalization.
Ribler’s powerful pipes are spotlighted in “I Just Want to Be a Star.” The soulful and uplifting “Holier Than Thou” highlights Groomes’ rich, velvety tone. And the Andrews Sister–esque number, “The Drive-In,” brings delicious harmonies from Ribler, Payne, and Campion.
Nunsense is a piece that you can walk away from joyfully inspired, which is an odd thing to say about a show built around dead Nuns, but that is the beauty of absurdist humor. NextStop’s production is a delightful respite away from the brutal realities of the world, offering unorthodox humor, with jokes about lepers losing body parts, and the promotion of a cookbook that has recipes that will literally kill you. All backed up with talented vocals and genuine fun.
The strength and animation of the cast bring Nunsense A-Men! to life and exude pure joy throughout the performance. Don’t miss this lighthearted and fun musical adventure that will serve as chicken soup to the soul and warm your heart. Just don’t actually eat the soup.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one 10-minute intermission.
Nunsense A-Men! plays through February 11, 2024, at NextStop Theatre Company, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, Virginia. Tickets cost $50 each and are available for purchase by email at [email protected], by calling the Box Office at 703.481.5930 x2, or online.
Download the digital program here.
By Dan Goggin
Benjamin Campion: Sister Leo, Sylvern Groomes Jr.: Sister Hubert, Harv Lester: Mother Superior, Patrick Payne: Sister Amnesia, Ben Ribler: Sister Robert Anne, Nathan Nichipor: Swing
Elisa Rosman: Keys, Dakota Kaylor: Drummer, Abraham Walter: Bass
Andrew JM Regiec: Director, Stefan Sittig: Choreographer, Elisa Rosman: Music Director, Jack Golden: Scenic Designer, Hailey LaRoe: Lighting Designer, Imari Pyles: Costume Designer, Mary Jo Ford: Properties Designer, Brandon Cook: Sound Designer, Ben Campion: Dance Captain, Kaiti R Parish: Stage Manager, Eileen Mullee: Assistant Stage Manager, Jonah Rosman: Audio Mixer, Jack Wilson: Technical Director, Sarah Usary: Scenic Artist, Gabriella Trevino-Bandy: Scenic Artist, Reed Simiele: Lead Electrician, Maya Tischler: Electrician