ARUNDEL – For good or ill (mostly good), nuns have had an influence on many lives. And there have been a number of important theatrical productions featuring nuns. The recent award-winning drama “Doubt,” for example, placed Catholic sisters in a very serious struggle with the church hierarchy.

And then there’s the “Nunsense” series, a succession of silly musical revues born of the mind of Dan Goggin and now celebrating their 25th year of delivering light fun to folks out to have just that. They must by now, as the saying goes, be the hardest-working nuns in show business.

The latest production, perhaps the last in the series, is called “Nunset Boulevard: Nunsense at the Hollywood Bowl” and is currently having its New England premiere run at the Arundel Barn Playhouse. Plays with a plot may “rot on a shelf,” as the sisters intone early on, but there’s just enough of one here to keep things moving.

Allie Beckmann, Alexandra Frankovich, Allison Frenzel, Heather Kopp and Kayla Ricker take the roles of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who this time go west in search of opportunities to show their stuff.

These fine young performers, several of them recent college grads, inhabit their habits and their roles with full-tilt, turned-all-the-way-up personality and exaggerated style. Whether singing, dancing or putting on a couple of game show-type contests involving audience members, they bring much energy and quirky charm to the proceedings.

The idea of fun-loving nuns, singing and dancing and telling the occasional risqu?oke, may be getting close to running on fumes at this point, but this one still has what it takes to keep a crowd (unfortunately small at Thursday’s performance) entertained.

Elvis, Mae West, the Andrews Sisters and a couple of bowling pins (the Hollywood Bowl in question turns out to be a bowling alley) are among the impersonations the sisters offer in their wacky trip through a Hollywood out of some fantasy of a not-terribly-recent past.

A couple of the sisters do perform “gee, she can really sing” ballads along the way, but the emphasis is decidedly on the brassy and comical. The song-and-dance choreography by Chris Saunders, who also directed the play, is nicely handled by the sisters, who execute bits of tap dance as well as some high-kicking during the 90-minute show.

A live music trio provides accompaniment for what is a pleasant little diversion to start the season at the very hospitable Arundel Barn Playhouse.


Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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