YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Easy Street Productions was looking for a musical that was fun and played to its strengths, hadn’t been done locally for years, and would give director Todd Hancock – who is recuperating from a series of medical procedures – a breather.
“Nunsense” fit the bill perfectly.
The musical about the loveable nuns has been a crowd-pleaser since it opened in 1985. It ran for 10 years and 3,672 performances, becoming the second-longest-running Off-Broadway show in history and an international phenomenon. It’s been quite a few years since any Mahoning Valley theater mounted the show, and the “Nunsense” sequels, not to mention the smash “Sister Act” franchise, has kept the concept on the front burner.
And, oh yeah – five women comprise the entire cast, which means Easy Street co-founder Hancock can stay off the stage and focus solely on directing a small group of veteran actors.
Maureen Collins, Easy Street’s other co-founder, naturally is playing the leader of the ensemble, Mother Superior Sister Regina.
“We had never done it before and we were looking for a project that Todd could direct and not be in, just a cast of women,” she says.
Written by Dan Goggin, “Nunsense” follows the misadventures of the five nuns as they put on a fundraiser variety show.
The script is kept fresh by updating the names of the people mentioned; for example, it’s now Pope Francis instead of Pope John Paul II.
“It’s dated but nuns are funny all the time,” Collins says, adding “It’s also a relief to wear a habit” because she doesn’t have to worry about her hair and costume changes.
Somehow, a comic number is funnier when nuns are doing the singing and dancing.
“The real charm is the interaction between the nuns,” Collins says.
“The musical numbers range from totally ridiculous hilarious to some that could get a tear out of you,” she continues. “There are also some ‘belter’ songs, too. And I’m thrilled to get an opportunity to do something with these four gals who have been doing their part in the theater world for a long time.”
Colleen Chance, a regular member of the Easy Street troupe, plays the streetwise Sister Robert Anne. She is also the director of choreography.
The cast includes Carla D. Gipson as Sister Mary Hubert, Brandy Johanntges as Sister Mary Amnesia, and Elizabeth Amstutz as Sister Leo.
“This is the best possible cast I could think of for this show,” Hancock says.
The show is replete with comedy, choreography and singing, says Collins.
“There are 17 songs and everybody has their moments, but most [numbers] include all of us,” she says. “There are upbeat songs and ballads and an Andrews Sisters kind of song, but all tell the story of the show.”
Don Yallech is the musical director.
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. March 27 and March 28, and 2:30 p.m. March 29, in Ford Family Recital Hall at the DeYor Performing Arts Center.
Tickets are $35, $29, $25 and $19 (plus handling charge), and can be purchased at the DeYor box office (open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), by phone at 330 744 0264 and at YoungstownSymphony.com.
Pictured: The cast of Easy Street’s production of “Nunsense” is Colleen Chance, Maureen Collins, Brandy Johanntges, Carla D. Gipson and Elizabeth Amstutz. The show runs March 27-30 at the Ford Family Recital Hall in downtown Youngstown.