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A warm hug of a play, is how director of Musical Theatre Gisborne’s production of Nunsense, Beatrice Papazoglou, describes the musical comedy.

“The appeal for me was it’s unadulterated joy. It’s a warm hug of a play for an audience whether they know the in-jokes or not. There are references to other musicals and the characters are so delighted to be there and are delighted to be performing.”

The characters are in fact performers, or performing nuns, to be precise. For a warm hug of a play the premise is mordantly macabre. After 14 Little Sisters of Hoboken die of botulism having dined on a meal of vichyssoise prepared by cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, the surviving five nuns build on Mother Superior’s vision for a fundraiser.

The aim of the fundraiser is to cover the cost of the burials, not only of the deceased nun, but the other 52 residents of the convent who ate the tainted vichyssoise.

Because the Reverend Mother had bought a VCR and camcorder for the convent, no money is left in the kitty to pay for the last four burials.

“With the deceased nuns on ice in the deep freeze, they decide to stage a variety show in the Mount Saint Helen’s School auditorium to raise the necessary amount,” says a Wikipedia synopsis.

“Participating in the project are Mother Superior Mary Regina, a former circus performer who can not resist the spotlight; her competitive but dignified rival, second-in-command Sister Mary Hubert; Sister Robert Anne, a streetwise nun from Brooklyn; Sister Mary Leo, a novice who is determined to be the world’s first ballerina nun; and wacky, childlike Sister Mary Amnesia, who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head.”

Their performances in the show include solo star turns, madcap dance routines, and an audience quiz.

Nunsense will be the first full musical to be staged in the MTG premises for several years and given the intimacy of the theatre, Papazoglou is presenting a boutique style of show.

“It’s a throwback to when the audience sat at tables with cups of tea. It will be an immersive experience. The audience comes in and takes a seat at the table and the nuns interact with people before and during the show. It’s a different thing for musical theatre.

“With only five in the cast I thought it would be better for people to feel like they’re coming into a community experience so they leave with hearts warmed and hands warmed with cups of tea.”

Musical Theatre Gisborne’s production of Nunsense opens at MTG, 99 Innes Street, and runs from May 15-22. Tickets available from eventfinda.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A NUN: The cast of Musical Theatre Gisborne’s production of Nunsense rehearse a routine for the upcoming show directed by Beatrice Papazoglou, choreographed by ballet teacher, Robyn Dear, with Sean Scanlen as musical director. Picture supplied