SWOYERSVILLE — If you visit the Music Box Dinner Playhouse to see “Nunsense” over the next three weekends, Rachel Bath predicts you’ll get a kick out of watching the sisters tap dance together.
Jennifer Hunter suggests you’ll enjoy hearing them sing a gospel-style number called “Holier Than Thou.”
And if you admire close harmonies, Michael Gallagher said, be prepared for the nuns to wow you, in the perky style of The Andrews Sisters, with a song called “The Drive-In.”
Bath, of Bear Creek, plays the part of a novice nun; Hunter, of Dallas, is the show’s musical director; and Gallagher, of Wilkes-Barre, is directing “Nunsense,” so they all have different perspectives.
But everyone can agree the show, which runs Saturday through July 1, is designed to make you laugh.
“As characters, they’re peculiarly delightful, each in her own way,” Gallagher said of Reverend Mother, her “second-in-command” Sister Mary Hubert, “streetwise nun” Sister Robert Anne, enthusiastic novice Sister Mary Leo and forgetful Sister Mary Amnesia.
“The very premise of it — the nonsense of ‘Nunsense’ — is that they’re raising money to bury the last few sisters who died after eating a meal that Sister Julia, Child of God — just that phrase is funny — didn’t know was poison,” Gallagher said.
The convent cook, whose name sounds so celebrity chef-like, isn’t the only Little Sister of Hoboken with a unusual moniker. The script mentions a Sister Mary Myopia, who serves as instructor of archery, and introduces a Sister Mary Annette, who is a puppet.
Sister Mary Amnesia is played by Kaylee Scritchfield, of Peckville, and, if her name isn’t enough to hint at disaster, perhaps the name of Mt. St. Helen’s Convent will do.
Over the past few decades Music Box has had great success in bringing “Nunsense” to the stage — eight times by Gallagher’s count.
Back in the habit are Debbie Zehner and Dana Feigenblatt, both of Kingston, and Amanda Reese, of Wyoming, who portray, respectively, Reverend Mother, Sister Robert Anne and Sister Mary Hubert.
“I’m not really streetwise,” Feigenblatt said before a rehearsal, joking about why she’s been cast as “the streetwise nun,” a one-time juvenile delinquent who reformed after a stint at St. Clare’s School for the Deplorable.
“You pull it off,” Scritchfield told her. “You’re doing a good job.”
While Gallagher had previous real-life experience with nuns — “12 years,” he said, automatically touching his palm as he recalled being smacked with a ruler — most of the cast did not
Zehner, for one, described herself as a Methodist who had to learn how to bless herself the first time she had the role in 1992.
With her comic abilities, Gallagher said, Zehner is a natural for the part of Reverend Mother.
“Quite honestly, we’ve had other people audition for this role over the years,” the director said. “No one’s ever been funnier.”
During previous “Nunsense” productions, Zehner remembers contributing some ad libs that directors have appreciated enough to keep. For example, during a scene in which the Reverend Mother isn’t feeling quite herself and has trouble getting to her feet, she’s been known to attribute it to “too much haluski at the bazaar.”
Somehow, you just know that’s a Northeastern Pennsylvania addition.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.