“The man made a killing off of five nuns,” quips Colby Coren, director of Hendersonville Community Theatre. He’s referring to writer Dan Goggin, who created the original Nunsense musical comedy, which opened Off Broadway in 1985. At the time, the $150,000 cost to produce it was viewed as a risky investment.
Since then, it has grossed more than half a billion dollars.
As a New York Times review explained, quoting a punny lyric in one of the play’s songs, “Nunsense is habit-forming.” Indeed — to the tune of more than half a dozen sequels produced worldwide about 10,000 times. The show also spawned a merch empire of nunsense-inspired action figures, coffee mugs, T-shirts, and cookbooks — and spinoffs like Nunsense A-Men: An all-male revue.
Closer to home, Coren and his cohorts will stage Nuncrackers: The nunsense Christmas Musical during the holiday season, and the local troupe has added its own creative interpretations. “It’s a show within a show,” Coren explains, “where nuns build a TV studio in their basement after winning the lottery. There is quite a bit of comedy in our production, as well as attempted ballet … ‘attempted’ is really the best way to describe it.
“We are breathing fresh life into it,” he adds, “with impersonations of famous chefs, political figures, and even cartoon characters. I told my cast, ‘Don’t think of any other productions. If you want to change something about a character, this is the time to do it.’ This is our chance to bring something new while keeping the integrity of the original.”
He gives fair warning to the audience: “There is no fourth wall. There’s audience participation as soon as you hit the door. People may even walk away with gifts.”
The cast has spent about 150 hours in rehearsals, showing up four days a week. Some commute 45 minutes each way, from as far away as Weaverville or South Carolina.
“That’s the really neat thing about being located in Hendersonville,” notes Coren. “We draw talent from all over the area. There are seven adults and five high-school students in this production, and it’s a great team. It’s a time of year when people need to forget all their troubles and have a laugh.”
The Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical runs Friday, Nov. 30 through Sunday, Dec. 16 at Hendersonville Community Theatre (229 S. Washington St). Show times are 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm on Sundays. Tickets are $26/general. $20/students, $15/youth. For more information, call (828) 692-1082 or see hendersonvilletheatre.org.