Front Row Center – April 2016

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

By Dan Goggin
Directed and Choreographed by Barbara Clippinger
Music Director Judy Hendrick


front rowThis musical comedy ran off-Broadway for 3,672 performances, the second longest run for such a show in history. It’s an entertaining spoof on all things Catholic and nun-like, with some awful puns (they can’t give up the habit) thrown in. The all-female cast has a lot of fun putting on what purports to be a fundraising show, and the audience is cleverly included in various ways – for example, there’s a Q & A session, with prizes for correct answers.

Why the fundraiser? It seems that 52 nuns have died from botulism after a fatal dose of vichyssoise, and after burying 48 sisters Reverend Mother splurged on a 60-inch flat screen color TV. She didn’t leave enough money to bury the other four sisters, who are now stored in the freezer—hence the need for money before the next Health Department inspection.

Anyway, much of the opening ten minutes is spent on this crazy explanation, together with a history of the Order, most of which was inaudible. There was a problem with the sound, particularly at the side of the stage, and also with some of the singers who didn’t enunciate the words sufficiently clearly. It’s a difficult skill which takes a lot of training and practice, as for example when performing a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. Then when we got into the real entertainment, there were some very good numbers.    

I particularly enjoyed the dying swan dance by “Sister Mary Leo” (Heather Hunter) and the very skilful ventriloquist act by “Sister Mary Amnesia” (Judy Hendrick). As part of the latter, Mac Morison was the voice of the puppet, while Judy fooled us by lip-synching the words. I also enjoyed seeing some old friends return to the LLT stage.

Cindy Paul played “Sister Robert Anne” as the frustrated understudy who never gets a fair chance – actually she does finally do a cute number in Act Two. I think the last time that Cindy appeared here on stage was in 2004 as the lead in “Proof.” Welcome back, Cindy! And Kristine Moily puts in an appropriately named appearance as “Sister Mary Sunshine” – Kristine was last at Lakeside in 2009 as the young wife in “The Mousetrap.” Wendy Petersen was excellent as the senior nun “Sister Hubert” with a sly humor and an interesting contralto singing voice. I should also mention back-up chorus members Amaranta Santos, Allyson De Jong, Lila Wells and Amy Friend. Finally, there’s a wonderful performance by Peggy Lord Chilton as “Reverend Mother.” Evidently Peggy broke her leg as the show was about to open, but it takes more than a mere broken limb to stop her from going on stage. She played her part from a wheelchair and with a little help from her friends. What a trouper!

Barbara Clippinger put together a lively and well-paced show, and also had the clever idea of adding the Rick Stevens song “Would Jesus Wear A Rolex” – a great number which wows the audience before the fun finale “Holier Than Thou.” Thanks to all those backstage who worked so hard on this show, including Stage Manager Win McIntosh, Assistant Stage Manager Sandy Jakubek and Assistant Choreographer Heather Hunter. A good time was had by everyone, and especially by an appreciative audience.

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