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Theatre Albany plans plenty of 'Nunsense' for Christmas

'Nuncrackers,' the Christmas incarnation of Dan Goggin's Nunsense series of musical comedies, comes to the Albany stage

Cast members, from left, Sandy Hardy Meadows, Lindsey Stewart, Suzanne Unger, Whitney Scanling and Karen McNally will reprise the roles they played in September 2012 in the upcoming Nuncrackers, which opens Thursday at Theatre Albany. (Albany herald file photo)

Cast members, from left, Sandy Hardy Meadows, Lindsey Stewart, Suzanne Unger, Whitney Scanling and Karen McNally will reprise the roles they played in September 2012 in the upcoming Nuncrackers, which opens Thursday at Theatre Albany. (Albany herald file photo)

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Fritz (Taylor Richter) holds the Nutcracker in front of a concerned Clara (Donna DeReus) in a rehearsal scene from Nuncrackers, which opens Thursday at Theatre Albany. (Staff Photos: Jim Hendricks)

ALBANY — The five nuns with a habit for misadventure return to the Theatre Albany stage Thursday to take on the Christmas holidays with their cable-access special “Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical.”

The live TV special quickly gets complicated with comedy.

“It’s very Christmasy and it’s just a lot of fun,” Theatre Albany Artistic Director Mark Costello said. “It’s a little bit different for the holidays.”

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Father Virgil (Casey Perkins) sings to young Clara (Donna DeReus) in a scene from Nuncrackers, which has seven performances scheduled during its two-weekend holiday run at Theatre Albany.

What isn’t different are the faces that will peak out from the wimples. All five actors from the September 2012 Theatre Albany performances of “Nunsense” reprise their roles: Sandy Hardy Meadows as Sister Hubert; Lindsey Giddens Stewart as Sister Mary Paul; Suzanne Unger as Mother Superior Maru Regina; Whitney Scanling as Sister Mary Leo, and Karen Spicer McNally as Sister Robert Anne.

CHRISTMAS 'NUNSENSE'

WHAT: “Nuncrackers” Christmas comedy musical by Dan Goggins

WHO: Theatre Albany

WHEN: 8 p.m., Dec. 5-6 and 12-14; 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and 15

WHERE: Theatre Albany, 514 Pine Ave.

TICKETS: $25, adults; $20, seniors; $10, students and active military

BOX OFFICE: Noon-4 p.m. weekdays; noon-2 p.m. Dec. 14; one hour before curtain

CONTACT: (229) 439-7141 or visit theatrealbany.org

“It’s their cable access channel down in the convent basement that they’ve turned into a TV studio with the money they got,” Theatre Albany Artistic Director Mark Costello said. “If people remember from ‘Nunsense,’ Sister Mary Paul was called Sister Amnesia then because she couldn’t remember who she was. But she won the Publisher’s Clearing House money and so they built a TV studio in the basement.”

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Clara (Donna DeReus) is amazed when the Nutcracker (Robbie Collins) comes to life in Nuncrackers. The holiday play is being performed over the next two weekends by Theatre Albany. Opening night is Thursday. (Staff photo: Jim Hendricks)

The cast has doubled in size from that performance. Sister Mary Leo’s brother Father Virgil Manly Trott (Casey Perkins) is on board for the show, as are four top students from the nun’s school who have been chosen to perform in the live TV special. Those roles are played by Robbie Collins, Donna DeReus, Taylor Richter and Janessa Simmons.

“It’s a homage to Christmas and the time of year,” Costello said. “They’re putting a show together.”

And that’s where the complications arise, including the fact that “break a leg” isn’t always a good thing in theater.

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From left, Donna DeReus, Taylor Richter and Robbie Collins portray leopards in Nuncracker, a holiday comedy musical that opens Thursday at Theatre Albany. (Staff photo: Jim Hendricks)

“Sister Mary Leo is planning to do the ‘Nutcracker’ fairy,” Costello said of the nun who is known to prefer ballet slippers to shoes. “Unfortunately, right at the first of the show there’s an accident and she gets hurt.” Filling the ballet shoes of the Sugar Plum Fairy results in one of the most uproarious takes ever on Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Ballet.”

Recasting that part isn’t the only challenge the nuns have to overcome for their Christmas TV special that touches on everything from pitching unique items on their version of a home shopping segment to another shot at a live cooking demonstration planned for Sister Julia, Child of God. Oh, and Christmas gifts suddenly disappear.

“There’s even a number where they try to recruit more people to come to the convent,” Costello noted, adding it’s a parody of the Village People’s “In the Navy.”

Along the way, there are plenty of holiday songs, including “Twelve Days Prior to Christmas,” “Santa Ain’t Comin’ To Our House,” “We Three Kings of Orient Are Us” and “It’s Better to Give Than To Receive.”

Costello said it’s all done with good humor and a healthy dose of holiday cheer.

“It’s just lots of zany fun,” he said. “It’s very nice, very Christmasy. People will get a good feeling of the season, as well as have a good time.”

“Nuncrackers” is the fourth in a series of Nunsense musicals by Dan Goggin. Costello said the series has developed into sort of a “cottage industry,” one that includes such titles as “Nunsensations,” “Nunsense Jamboree,” “Nunsense II — The Second Coming,” “Nunset Boulevard” and “Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class.”

The Theatre Albany production will be unusual in that it will open Thursday instead of the traditional Friday opening and there will not be a performance Saturday. The schedule includes 8 p.m. shows Thursday and Friday, as well as Dec. 14-16, and 2:30 p.m. shows Dec. 8 and 15.

“That’s because of the (Albany Celebration of Lights) Christmas parade that comes down in front of us,” Costello said, adding the theater had tried a Saturday evening performance one year when the schedules overlapped, but found traffic had not cleared in time for the performance to start.

Costello said he usually tries to schedule the opening of the theater’s December shows for the second weekend to avoid the conflict with the frist Saturday parade, but the calendar wasn’t cooperative this year. “If we did that this year,” he said, “we’d be closing on the 22nd and that’s real close to Christmas, so we can’t do that. So we’re adding an extra Thursday night so that we have seven performances in there.”