Florida's Nature Coast is going to look like March of the Penguins this summer, as not one, but two installments of playwright Dan Goggin's popular Nunsense series come to two different theaters from July 10 through Sept. 13.
Stage West Community Playhouse is doing the fifth of Goggin's seven Nunsense plays, Meshuggah-Nuns!, weekends July 10-19 on the Main Stage.
The Show Palace Dinner Theatre is doing the cross-dressing Nunsense A-Men, the latest in the series, as matinees and on weekends July 31 to Sept. 13.
I haven't seen either one, but I have listened to some of the Meshuggah-Nuns! songs and they're a hoot. As for the Show Palace, artistic director and audience darling Matthew McGee is playing the Mother Superior, so it would be hard to go wrong there.
Meshuggah-Nuns! finds the Little Sisters of Hoboken relaxing on board the USS Golden Delicious for the "Faith of Nations" world cruise. A big storm brews, and the actors in the shipboard production of Fiddler on the Roof are laid low with seasickness — all except the actor playing Tevye.
The ship's captain knows that the Little Sisters have some stage experience, so he asks them to step in to put on the show. That leads to songs like Contrition (a knockoff of Fiddler's Tradition), If I Were a Catholic and Three Shayna Maidels (Orthodox Jewish maiden girls), as well as a rousing rendition of Matzoh Man, a takeoff on Macho Man.
The tickets will be only $10, the usual ticket price for shows in the 159-seat Stage West Forum. Even so, the theater has wisely decided to put the show in the 391-seat main auditorium, probably because of the overflow crowds for the Forum's latest play, Driving Miss Daisy. There may be some empty seats for the midsummer production in the big auditorium, but that's better than a waiting list of disappointed patrons, as happened with Miss Daisy.
Director Wayne Raymond is holding auditions at 10 a.m. today and 2 p.m. Sunday at the theater (call (352) 688-0427). He needs four female singers and one male singer who can move well. Tickets will go on sale soon (watch this space, as they say).
Tickets are already flying out the door for the Show Palace's Nunsense. Besides McGee, the show will have Michael Ursua (Leo in The Producers) as the spacey Sister Amnesia and Reggie Whitehead (Ain't Misbehavin') as the ambitious Sister Mary Hubert. Whitehead originated the role off-Broadway and is on the original cast recording, so getting him is quite a coup for the Show Palace.
Yet to be cast are Sister Mary Leo, the novice who loves ballet, and Sister Robert Ann, which will be difficult to fill because she's a tomboy, and that means a guy playing a girl playing a tomboy. Victor/Victoria, anyone?
McGee said the cast won't be camping it up as nuns.
"When we come out, there's the initial joke — they're men! — but after that, we just do the show," he said.
I have seen Nunsense done by women many times, and of the four in the series I've seen, it's by far the best written. It will be interesting to see it done by some fellas.
50 shows for a fabulous dancer
Happy 50th to Show Palace dancer-actor Troy LaFon.
No, no, not his birthday; LaFon is a loooong way from the half-century mark. The celebration is for his 50th show at the Show Palace, Viva Vegas — the Sequel.
I first noticed LaFon when he was one of the Jets in the 1999 production of West Side Story. He later told me he'd had no formal dance training, but his easy-going style and confidence made him a standout.
Fast-forward 10 shows, and LaFon was out-doing the big guys. In a column in 2001, I wrote:
"Dancer Troy LaFon is another one to watch … he gets better with each (show). LaFon … has an easy-going, swinging style that can't be taught or learned; you either have it or you don't. He's one of those rare tap dancers who make tapping look smooth and effortless, even as their feet are flying."
I just couldn't resist adding, "Director Steven Flaa brought in an Equity actor to be the lead tap dancer (in Some Like It Hot), but LaFon outdid him at every turn."
He's only gotten better since then, often stepping out of the chorus line to do a feature role like Ito in Mame, Ed Sullivan in Fabulous 50s and 60s Review, and, perhaps most memorable, the lecherous juror in 2004's record-setting (and keeping) Chicago.
LaFon's colleagues and bosses call him the Show Palace's unofficial ambassador because it seems he knows everyone, and everyone knows (and loves) him.
So, happy milestone, Troy. Here's to 50 more.