What’s So Funny About Nuns?

By Kelly Moran

What’s So Funny About Nuns?

Everybody knows that “Broadway” means big theatrical extravaganzas, but in New York, “off-Broadway” shows are smaller productions in smaller theaters or even cabarets.  Now, one of the most famous and popular of off-Broadway shows is coming to the Big Island.  It’s the outrageous, hilarious (and slightly irreverent) musical “Nunsense.”  Performances start February 8th at the Kilauea Theater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through February 23rd.

As you might expect, “Nunsense” is about Catholic nuns, five of them, and they are in a pickle.  Nearly all of the sisters in their convent have perished accidentally, and the survivors decide to stage a variety show to raise money so they can bury them.  To put the best face on their predicament, they tap into their inner divas, singing, dancing, and – not always intentionally – clowning around.

(l-r) Christina Hussey, Stephanie Becher, Kathy Frankovic, Erin Gallagher and Corey Yester, in “Nunsense.”

Producer-Director Suzi Bond is a bundle of energy who regularly presents two musicals a year at the Kilauea Theater.  One is typically for and with children, such as “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast” (which is coming up this summer); the other offers more grownup fare, such as “The Fantasticks” and the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.  Three of the five “nuns” are well-loved veterans of Suzi’s shows: in last year’s “Cinderella,” Stephanie Becher, Erin Gallagher and Christina Hussey were (respectively) the stepmother and the two ugly stepsisters.  Kathy Frankovic has sung in two musicals at Hilo’s Palace Theater, including “The Music Man” in which Corey Yester was Marian the Librarian.

To say “Nunsense” is a theater classic is an understatement. The original New York production ran for nine years – it’s the third-longest-running off-Broadway show ever.  It spawned a couple of spinoffs, and is widely performed all over the world in twenty different languages.  The reasons for its success go beyond its hilarity: there’s sympathy for the sisters’ lifestyle as well as their predicament, and there is quite a lot of interaction with the audience, in both expected and unexpected ways.

Kathy plays the Mother Superior and says – with a hint of what her character will do in the name of show-business – “It’s falling-down funny!”

Tickets are $15; students and seniors pay $12; children $10.  Advance sales are available at the Kilauea General Store in Volcano, Kea’au Natural Foods in the Kea’au Shopping Center, and at Paradise Plants and The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo.  For reservations and more information, phone 982-7344.

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