“Nunsense” might begin with the untimely death of 52 nuns, but there is no doubt the musical is really just for laughs.
“It’s very lighthearted and heartwarming,” Karen Sheridan said. “The premise is very fun. It harkens us back to a time when we were all little people sitting at little desks. The music is really clever as well as the lyrics.”
Sheridan, who is directing Actors Theatre of Indiana’s production of “Nunsense,” has previously directed the show and acted in “Nunsense II: The Second Coming.” ATI will present the musical from Sept. 9 to 25 at the Studio Theater at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. ATI last performed ‘Nunsense’ in 2010.
The plot centers on when Little Sisters of Hoboken discover that their cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, has accidentally poisoned 52 of the sisters, the surviving nuns are in dire need of funds for the burials. Five sisters decide that the best way to raise the money is to put on a variety show in the school auditorium.
“The audience is part of the show,” said Sheridan, who lives near Detroit.
Stephanie Wahl, a Butler University graduate, plays Sister Mary Amnesia, which she also performed as Sister Leo for the Peninsula Players in Fish Creek, Wis. Sheridan directed that production and suggested Wahl send her information to ATI.
Wahl also performed as Sister Mary Leo in a 25th anniversary off-Broadway production of “Nunsense.” She was on the 30th anniversary cast recording as Sister Mary Leo. She also appeared in some other “Nunsense” sequels.
“It brings so much laughter,” Wahl said. “The favorite thing that I get to do is for two hours we all forget everything we have to do in our lives. We all forget the worries. You come in and live another life for a while and enjoy yourselves. I love changing people’s lives for the time that they are there.”
Wahl said the jokes, like the older Vaudeville jokes, are timeless.
“You can always see something of someone you know or yourself in it,” she said. “The nice thing about the show is that Danny Goggin has given everyone their time to shine. That’s the way the show is set up, too.”
Indianapolis resident Suzanne Stark has long wanted to be in a production of “Nunsense.”
“It’s absolutely one I wanted to do,” said Stark, who plays Mother Superior. “I’ve seen some really wonderful performers do these roles, so I have some big shoes to fill.”
Stark agreed with Wahl that it’s a true ensemble piece.
“Everyone has their moment that is going to make the audience laugh hard,” Stark said. “I got a couple of scenes that I think are especially hilarious. The interaction between the five girls is really funny. I think each of us gets a solo. We’re all involved in group numbers. There are duets and trios.”
Stark made her ATI debut in “Ruthless” in 2019.
Rachel Weinfeld, a 2017 Ball State University graduate who lives in Burlington, Vt., is making her first appearance at ATI.
“I actually was not very familiar with the show before I auditioned,” said Weinfeld, who plays Sister Leo. “It’s fun to experience something that is new,”
Weinfeld has listened to the recordings.
“Since I got cast, I definitely didn’t try to watch as many things as I can because you want to keep it fresh and keep it your own,” she said. “The first time I heard it all the way through was with the cast (at the first rehearsal). One of the fun things about a comedy like this is some of it is improvised and some of it involves a little bit of audience interaction, so if I had done the show before it wouldn’t feel brand new because everyone brings so new and different things to their character. I’m excited to be part of creating that.”
Sister Leo wants to be a ballerina, so Weinfeld wears her ballet pointe shoes.
“I did dance (classes) throughout high school,” she said. “It’s been a few years since I used those.”
Weinfeld was able to perform with the Ball State choir at the Palladium at the Center for Performing Arts.
Illeana Kirven and Katelyn Lauria are the other two cast members portraying nuns.
For more, visit atistage.org.