The loopy musical “Nunsense,” about a group of sisters trying to raise funds to bury some nuns who were accidentally poisoned, benefitted from an original concept and irreverent attitude. Plus, seeing nuns sing and dance is automatically funny.
The Christmas sequel, “Nuncrackers,” can’t live off the originality anymore, the attitude is a little more relaxed and sometimes even schmaltzy, and if you’ve seen “Nunsense,” convent choreography will no longer amuse you.
That said, the show is pretty entertaining, even if, as with most sequels, it’s not much more than a rehash of what’s gone before. The Little Sisters of Hoboken have turned their convent basement into a TV studio and are producing their first Christmas special, for which we are the audience. Things go awry, of course, and what we see is a mixture of their prepared program and some of the shenanigans that go on during the down time.
Scatter-brained Sister Mary Amnesia (Robinne Booth) gives out door prizes. Sister Mary Regina (Pat Sumsion), the Reverend Mother, recalls with fondness the Christmases of her youth spent with a traveling carnival. Tough-talking Sister Robert Anne (Debbie Allred) sings about how all she wants for Christmas is a one-night stand — at Carnegie Hall, that is. Several of the nuns’ students enact adorable little Christmas-themed plays and pageants. And Father Virgil (Lon Keith), in a skit stolen from the days of burlesque, gets progressively drunker as he explains how to make holiday fruitcake.
In the midst of all this, Sister Mary Leo — who would be the world’s first nun ballerina — busts her leg backstage, and the convent’s Christmas presents are stolen.
Though some of the show gets more sentimental than its predecessors, writer Dan Goggin’s trademark wit and verbal agility are still present. (“To make your Christmas merry, we’ve got Marys by the score,” goes one of the songs.) The best nun-oriented jokes have already been made, but there is new territory explored with their version of the Home Shopping Network (from which you can buy two new perfumes: “Confession” and “Absolution”).
Probably the funniest number is a recruitment song called “In the Convent,” a parody of the Village People’s “In the Navy.” Their version of “The Nutcracker Ballet” is a hoot, too, as is pretty much the whole thing — especially if it’s your first exposure to this habit-forming little troupe.
Oh, those wacky nuns.