By D. A. Blackburn
It’s getting to be a habit, as Meadow Brook Theatre is gearing up to close its 2007-08 season with yet another “Nunsense” production. The seven-show franchise, which Alma-native Dan Goggin unveiled 25 years ago, has graced the theater’s stage twice in the last two seasons. Now, Goggin is back directing the third show in the series, “Sister Amnesia’s Country Western Nunsense Jamboree,” which opens May 28.
Meadow Brook’s most-recent production, which closed last week, was an excellent restaging of the original “Nunsense,” also directed by the show’s creator. Starring Cindy Williams of “Laverne & Shirley” as Mother Superior, the show played to big houses and received strong reviews. For “Jamboree,” the company has again found a well-known star in Lee Meriwether and hopes to duplicate the earlier box office success.
Initially, Meadow Brook’s administrators had planned only to present “Jamboree” this season, but the fates aligned and the show’s anniversary provided a perfect opportunity for the Little Sisters of Hoboken.
“Last year, we were here with ‘Nunsensations,’ and it went so well that they asked if I’d like to come back this season,” Goggin said. He did – and ‘Nunsense Jamboree’ was added to the schedule. But when the theater experienced difficulties with its planned season closer, ‘Man of La Mancha,’ Goggin had an idea. “So I said, ‘If we can get another star, would you like to do ‘Nunsense,’ since it’s the show’s 25th anniversary?” And they said it would be great.”
With a commitment in place, Goggin cast Williams in the first show, and asked Lee Meriwether, star of “All My Children” and a former Miss America, to join “Jamboree” as Sister Mary Wilhelm. Meriwether had previously played the role of Sister Robert Anne in Goggin’s national tour of “Nunsense,” and signed on for the 10-show run of “Jamboree” in a role that she’s not previously tackled.
“This is a totally new role for me. It’s a challenge because I keep thinking ‘accent,’ and there’s no accent,” said Meriwether. “I’m playing her straight, and she’s a very different character than Robert Anne.”
Cast alongside Meriwether in “Jamboree” is Alexandra Kaprielian as the show’s namesake, Sister Mary Amnesia. Kaprielian returns to the role, having played it with phenomenal comedic poise in Meadow Brook’s “Nunsense.”
“Sister Amnesia’s Country Western Jamboree” is a smooth transition from “Nunsense,” even without “Nunsense II: The Second Coming” between shows to punctuate. It is a stand-alone production based around established characters.
In the franchise’s first show, we learn that Sister Mary Amnesia was struck in the head by a crucifix and had subsequently lost all memory of her previous self. When her memory returns, she discovers that she was once a country music singer, and that she had won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes – saving the day at the convent, which was trying to raise cash to bury several sisters who’d met untimely deaths after eating botulism-laced soup. In “Nunsense II,” the forgetful sister is given a record contract, and in “Jamboree,” the convent (less Mother Superior and Sister Robert Anne and plus one Sister Mary Wilhelm) sets out on tour to promote Amnesia’s debut album.
As he did with Meadow Brook’s recent “Nunsense,” Goggin has worked diligently to recreate the original production of “Jamboree.”
“We brought the whole team out, and we want to give people the original show,” said Goggin. “We’ve got the original set that was used in the television special, and the choreographer and the musical director were both the first to do the show.”
Goggin’s approach paid off for his “Nunsense” engagement, and it will likely attract a crowd for “Jamboree.” He is quick to mention that one of its 10 shows already has sold out, and that audiences for the first engagement were consistently large. “Jamboree,” having spent less time on Detroit-area stages, will likely be even bigger for Meadow Brook.
“Sister Amnesia’s Country Western Nunsense Jamboree”
. Meadow Brook Theatre, on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester. Wednesday-Sunday, May 28-June 8. Tickets: $28-$38. 248-377-3300 or http://www.mbtheatre.com