Encore Michigan

Familiar material gets slick (and tasty) treatment at Turkeyville

Review October 06, 2013 Bridgette Redman

Somewhere there is a fine line between “feast” and “too much of a good thing.”

At Cornwell’s Turkeyville, there is no doubt that the food served to its dinner theater patrons falls into the feast category. True to its name, it serves up a turkey feast fit for Thanksgiving, complete with mashed potatoes, squash, Harvard beets, stuffing, turkey meatloaf, soup and salad. For dessert you can choose from ice cream, rhubarb cake or coconut pie. All of it is delicious. Patrons can also order cocktail specials named after the nuns in its current production of “Nunsensations.”

The personnel, as well, whether the servers or the performers, are skilled, highly trained and committed to bringing the highest level of service and entertainment to their patrons. The five women playing the nuns were charismatic, great singers and brought a high level of energy to the show. Nor was anything lacking in the production values with Kate Koskenin’s costumes creating a delightful mix of habits and show girls. There were also fun props and stage pieces that set up a Vegas-style atmosphere.

Then there is the little matter of the script. “Nunsensations” is one of the many incarnations of the “Nunsense” show, a popular story that was clever and amusing in its first few incarnations. “Nunsensations” is one of six sequels and three spin-offs, and it simply fails to fulfill its purpose as fresh comedy. Although likely not apparent to those experiencing the franchise for the first time, “Nunsensations” is a pale copy of the original with the same style of jokes, situations and songs that have already been done and done better. It takes the five performing nuns to Las Vegas, the City of Sin, and decks them in feathers and fancy head pieces for a two-hour performance of comedy juxtaposing show girls and nuns, Vegas culture and convent culture.

Cornwell’s Dinner Theatre has pulled in a handful of highly skilled actresses whose talents were surely up to more comedic fare than they were given to work with. Gail Betts-Trader’s Sister Mary Regina is the consummate Mother Superior, especially enjoyable when she primly tells Michelle Valenti’s Sister Robert Anne that they will compete with the other Las Vegas showgirls by showing their T and A: Talent and Attitude.

Valenti’s New York accent never falters, and she wears the character’s trademark large red sneakers with style. She’s well-settled into convent life now, and earns her solo number “Why Sing a Ballad,” toward the end of the second act.

Kristina Hegel made a delightfully ditzy Sister Mary Amnesia, and was especially fun to watch when she was interacting with the crowd during the audience participation scene in which patrons were invited up to play a slots-like game of Holy Rollers. She combined large arm and leg movements with a speech pattern that was always in the question range to create this most innocent and forgetful of nuns.

Miranda Jane and Elizabeth Flemming rounded out the cast as Sister Mary Hubert, the nun in charge of novices, and Sister Mary Leo, the sister who wants to be the first nun ballerina. Both play their roles and have the singing chops to make sure this weak script gets the best performance possible out of it.

“Nunsensations” had its moments where it rose above being a pale imitation, most notably in the final number where they decide to “TTMnR: Take the Money and Run.” “Cirque du Blimp,” the last number of Act 1, was another high point in the script with the sisters re-creating two classic Vegas-style shows to tell the story of the Hindenberg. It is especially true here that the performers give it their all and make this production rise above the script’s potential.

Cornwell Dinner Theater surely did the best job possible with the material: The actors were all fine singers and dancers who easily established rapport with the audience. However, there simply was no story, nor anything that let this script be anything other than a failed attempt to re-capture the magic of the first story – now a stilted formula that is better experienced in the original forms.

Week of 9/25/2023

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