What is it about Nuns that show-biz loves so much?
In the last 50 years, the concept of the not-quite-so-holy Sister has given us Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, Sally Field in The Flying Nun, Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act, and Dawn French as The Vicar of Dibley.
Five lesser known – though no less hilariously ill-fated – Nuns are the Little Sisters of Hoboken; who will return to Townsville this March in NQOMT’s production of Nunsense; one of the longest running Off-Broadway shows of all-time.
Janelle Croft will star in Nunsense for the second time, playing Sister Mary Amnesia this year, and says the show’s mix of hilarity and intimacy makes it a great one to be part of.
“There’s plenty of opportunity for lots of ham,” said Janelle. “It is just fall-down, silly funny; with some little touching moments – as there should be – interspersed with lots of music with key changes and really hard harmonies, so it keeps the balance.”
The show follows the Sisters’ efforts to raise funds to bury the last four nuns of a 48-nun poisoning caused by the convent’s cook, Sister Julia, Child of God.
“We’ve buried all but four of the sisters, because we raised the money to have all of the burials, then Mother Superior went out and bought a new HD TV, leaving four sisters still in the freezer,” Janelle explains. “So we decide to stage a fundraising concert. That sets it up beautifully, it’s so silly, but so, so funny.”
NQOMT will stage the show in their Hall at Pimlico, due to the Civic Theatre’s closure; and with just four other nuns in the cast – played by Kathy Shield, Kimberly Fuller, Sally Jupp and Meredith Palmer – the show is a shift from much larger ensemble musicals audiences might be used to.
“It makes [the experience] a lot more intimate and it gives you a lot more opportunity to work closely with one another on all the little things that you might not have a chance to when you’re part of a huge ensemble,” said Janelle. “You get to really work on the little bits that truly make up a character and the relationships between the characters because you’re spending so much time with each other.
“It also lends itself really well to [being performed in NQOMT’s Hall].
“I’ve worked in the Hall before: many years ago we did Steel Magnolias, the play, there and it was great because that was also a really short, small-cast show that doesn’t require any set or lighting or anything elaborate. It made it a different experience because your audience was 60cm away, sitting right in front of you. You could hear them breathing, you could hear them having little whispers between each other.”
Janelle said the close proximity and interaction with audiences throughout Nunsense required greater focus and character development from the show’s cast.
“I was educated at a Catholic school my whole life, and was taught by Sisters of Mercy, so I’ve had lots of time to research,” she joked.
However, Janelle said her old school mates shouldn’t expect to see any familiar quirks built in to her take on Sister Amnesia.
“I think Amnesia’s pretty much out there on her own.
“I can’t give too much away about her, but I feel like I have the two best songs in the show… but then all the other Sisters will probably say the same thing.”
Catch Nunsense at the NQOMT Hall on 2-10 March 2018, with tickets available here.