Even when Nunsense was new and fresh -- in 1985 -- I found its punning, pseudo-religious humor to be labored. But it has its charms, especially as a gee-whiz, let's-put-on-a-show kind of entertainment.
That's pretty much what guest director Ty Yadzinski and his spirited cast have created with Jersey Productions' second show of the summer, and at least in the more spirited second act there's a lot to enjoy.
Nunsense has been done to death, with five sequels that largely repeat the same silly jokes about nuns who yearn to be in showbiz. But based on the opening night audience -- full of locals who loved the gentle, slightly off-color pokes at the Catholic Church and nuns -- it's humor that many people still enjoy. The show works well in the Aronoff Center's small Fifth Third Bank Theater.
The first act feels labored, as the premise is laid out: 48 of 52 nuns poisoned by a sister who concocts some toxic vichyssoise have been laid to rest; a talent-show fund-raiser is needed to finish the job.
We hear the history of the Little Sisters of Hoboken and meet the characters: the bossy Mother Superior (Elaine Wilson) and her good-natured but envious No. 2, Sr. Mary Hubert (Emily Carroll-Martin), plus three nuns -- an amnesiac (Noelle Sparks), an aspiring ballerina (Kate Glasheen) and a tough-talking gal from Brooklyn (Annie Kalahurka).
The second act warms up with better songs, especially Kalahurka's rendering of the show's one serious number, "Growing Up Catholic," offering a true sense of devotion. Sparks' Sr. Mary Amnesia recovers from her wide-eyed state of forgetfulness singing "I Could've Gone to Nashville" and the show's final big tune, a rousing Gospel-inspired song about saints, "Holier Than Thou," is fronted by Carroll-Martin, in a vocally unrestrained performance. Accompanied by Steve Hinnenkamp at a slightly too loud keyboard (the singers are sometimes overpowered), it's hard not to be captivated by Nunsense's good spirits.