The Mercury Players are bringing the hilarious musical Nunsense back to the Valley.
A cast made up of Maria Ridewood (Mother Superior), Jennifer Lally (Sister Robert Anne), Kari Cowan (Sister Leo), Angie Brockhurst (Sister Hubert) and Mary Egan (Sister Amnesia/Marionette) has director/choreographer Cathy Schmidt purring with delight as rehearsals continue for opening night on Thursday, Nov. 26.
“This group of ladies has impressed me so much. Their learning and ability to work together, how quickly they formed their relationships, the trust they have in each other, the positive feedback we give each other. It’s just been unbelievable. I mean: wow!” she said.
Of course, Nunsense is an awfully fun vehicle to drive together.
“It’s so full of comedy but there are also those touching moments when we have everybody thinking a character is tough and then she unexpectedly displays a moment of endearing innocence; that leads to a new connection with the audience. But we also have an awful lot of comedy,” she said.
Schmidt said audiences will really be surprised by Sister Marionette.
“She’s a puppet, operated by Sister Amnesia (Mary Egan). It turns out that Amnesia has a friend, Sister Marionette and the puppet makes an appearance, joining in a song.”
She chuckles reminiscently.
“Oh, boy. It’s one of those moments I can’t wait for the audience to see because they’re not going to expect what comes out of Sister Marionette’s mouth. Maybe Amnesia isn’t all that innocent”
Those who only know Egan as a talented singer/songwriter are in for a treat. “Mary Egan is an excellent comedic actress,” Schmidt began and then shared some of the remarkable accomplishments of the group.
“These five women are super-powerful. They managed to block, choreograph and sing this entire show — a full hour and a half musical — in 18 rehearsals. I’ve never had this happen before. Maria Ridewood said to me one day, ‘Our job as actresses is to show the director how hard we are working between those rehearsals.’ And that is incredibly true. It was stunning to watch how quickly these ladies were moving forward. I’m a bit in awe. That makes my job a joy.
“With so few rehearsals, and choreography as well as music, it’s no easy task. But, they dropped their scripts last Sunday (Nov. 1),” Schmidt said.
It’s been a director’s dream.
“These ladies have just been a gift. We sit there and laugh till we can laugh no more. I said to the sisters: ‘That will probably be the biggest struggle for you: making sure you don’t crack up at each other.”
But having the structure of the play already bolted firmly together early leaves time for polishing it to a real lustre, she said.
“These characters have relationships. When we started to build what those were we saw a significant blossoming start to happen. They’ve done everything I’ve asked of them and then did more.”
Schmidt and her colleague, Laura Cardriver, have been working all along with the actresses but now, Mark Ridewood has joined the production as a drummer.
“So Monday was the beginning of a new adventure for us all. That’s kind of fun. Laura’s been working amazingly with the cast. The harmonies are so hard in this show but she’s been wonderful. It’s been a pleasure to watch.”
Cardriver agreed with Schmidt’s assessment of the actresses.
“They’re such a talented group. We end every rehearsal laughing our heads off,” she said.
Stage manager Janet Vanyo is another valuable member of the team, too, according to Schmidt.
“I respect her so much; just having her on the show I just know that nothing’s going to go wrong. We’ve done a lot of shows together and when I asked her to come on this one with me, she didn’t hesitate,” she said.
Most of the show’s actors are well known around the Valley but Cowan, the youngest, may be a revelation for theatregoers.
“She’s 18. She was in Oklahoma and also in Pirates of Penzance. She’s done some stuff with Chalkboard Theatre as well and used to sing with Sheila Johnson’s choir. And in her role, she aspires to be a nun-ballerina. She was a little bit nervous about that because a dancer she is not! But she’s been practising and it turns out she’s got the most beautiful balletic arms. She’s just enveloped herself in the role of wanting to be a nun-ballerina. That’s got to be hard.”
Every member of the cast has had a Schmidt specialty thrown at them, too.
“Of course, they all had to learn tap dancing,” she said. “They’ve got their big tap number.”
Schmidt also thanked the Mercury Players for believing in the show.
“They’ve never done a musical before. So, when we were getting ready to order the rights and royalties, it was not like a play, where they would pay $800-$900. This was $2,600. They took a huge risk but I strongly believe this musical will sell itself, with the five powerhouses that are in this show. I hope people know already that they are in for one amazing show.”
The problem is probably going to be that they’ll be turning away eager folks from the door so if you’re hankering after some special entertainment, get those tickets now.
Evening performances are scheduled for Nov. 26, 27, 28, Dec. 3, 4, 5 all starting at 7:30 p.m. with two Sunday matinees, Nov. 29 and Dec. 6, starting at 2 p.m.
All performances are at the Mercury Theatre on Brae Road in Duncan.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students.
Tickets are available at Ten Old Books in Duncan, from cast members, by email from email@example.com or by phoning 250-746-6897.