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  • Writer's pictureMoriah Joy

Nunsense Review- Little Theatre of Virginia Beach

Words by Moriah Joy. Images Courtesy of the Little Theatre of Virginia Beach.

There are few moments in life that can compare to the thrill of a live performance. The anticipation builds in both the actors and the audience in the hopes for a few hours of excitement and entertainment. Sometimes it’s the thrill of seeing one of your classic favorites and other times it’s the pure bliss of taking in the story and the characters for the very first time. As an audience member, I had the pleasure of being the latter. I had no expectations going into the show other than to support a community theatre and what I was met with was a thoroughly engaging production in which all the actresses equally shined brighter than the spotlight that tried to keep up.

The basic premise of the show Nunsense is that there was an unfortunate cooking fiasco in which Sister Julia Child of God accidentally kills most of the nuns in the convent through a bad batch of soup. The remaining nuns then have to raise money in order to give the 40-some nuns a proper burial, and their way of doing that is by putting on a talent show of sorts for the parents of the students.

One of the beautiful things about this production is the audience engagement and the ability of the actresses to heavily improvise while in character. There were many moments throughout the show where a character would engage with an audience member with jokes, trivia, and the like, all which made it feel as though we were at a comedy club where the women just happened to be dressed like nuns. It also created this energy in the audience begging for us to pay attention because anything could happen one moment to the next and it would never be the same again.

One of the things that can be worrisome when someone has directed a show numerous times is that the director will phone it in and try to recreate the same production rather than finding new ways to explore the characters and the show. However, that was not the case as Karen Buchheim’s vision and direction for the production was cohesive and vibrant while true to the classic theatre pictures presented in most musicals. The choreography Ms. Buchheim chose for the actors expertly showcased their incredible talents, with each actress making the movements look effortless. Another aspect of the show that was well accomplished was the casting of this show. With the piece truly relying on the five performers to carry the production, everyone has to maintain high energy and successfully did so as the show felt like a nonstop roller coaster with exciting twists and turns in every moment.

Regina Rossi delivered a performance of the not-so-straightlaced Reverend Mary Regina (Mother Superior) that makes the audience believe she walked straight out of a convent to perform at the theatre for an evening. Her mannerisms are so precise and stern as they bolster comedic timing and allow for extra hilarity when she becomes unhinged.

Sister Mary Hubert is played by the unforgettable Michelle Ford as the right hand woman to Reverend Mary Regina. The two play off each other very well as the battle for Nun Supremacy is at the heart of most of their interactions. However, when Ms. Ford has her moment, she sings with such bravado and soul the entire audience cannot help but burst into cheering and clapping, wanting to join her on stage.

Shawna Lawhorn who plays Sister Mary Amnesia exhibits an incredible operatic vocal range all while delivering a sincere performance of a woman naive of the world due to a traumatic head injury. Her comedic timing is impeccable as she is able to stay in character flawlessly even through interacting with the audience.

Sister Robert Anne, played by Becca Schatti, spends most of her time on stage trying to compete for the spotlight as the Reverend Mother disapproves of the kind of talents she might perform. Once she is finally able to have her moment, she delivers a performance that is entertaining as she delights with her impressions and impressive belting ability.

And last, but certainly not least, is Sister Mary Leo played by Amy Harbin. While the character may be a novice nun, Mrs. Harbin is anything but as she displays her beautiful ballet moments and other fantastic dancing ability along with a sweet soprano voice.

When all five actresses take the stage together, it’s no wonder why almost all of their performances have been sold out throughout the run.

The costumes were designed by Kay Burcher and while it would be easy to overlook this element of the show, she beautifully highlighted the costumes in a way that allows the performers to engage further with their characters and the amusing chaos that ensues.

Sandy Lawrence’s set design obtains beautiful duality as the stage is supposed to both accommodate the performance of “Nunsense” and “Grease.” The pieces effortlessly become a part of the show as their style brightens and enhances the comedic performances.

Lighting designer, Riley Rowen, creates an atmosphere for each piece within the production allowing it to have a moment to dazzle while being cohesive to the overall show.

While the final weekend of this show may be sold out, go to to get tickets for their next show, Baskerville (September 3rd through the 26th).

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