Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Manatee Players
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Kaleigh Valach, Lauren Butterfield,
Madison Bradley, Jessica Babcock
and Victoria Gross

Photo Courtesy of Manatee Performing Arts Center
In these difficult times, putting on a show is in and of itself some sort of miracle, but Manatee Players has done it again with a lively production of Dan Goggin's (book, music and lyrics) Nunsense. At the properly socially distanced performance I attended, things were spirited as a talented cast sang and danced their way into the audience's hearts.

For someone like me who has seen this musical as well as several of its sequels (Nuncrackers, Nunsense 3, The Jamboree) before, the setup jokes can feel sophomoric, but are still hilarious to an audience new to its charms. Sadly, one of the surest laugh lines, "Sister Julia, Child of God," landed with a complete thud on opening night. Maybe only us oldsters remember the lady behind the quip. The music is derivative yet tuneful at the same time. It may not be great art, but it is usually an audience pleaser and, more important, within possibilities at this time.

Five Manatee Performing Arts Center regulars make up the cast: Victoria Gross is a stern but firm Reverend Mother; Jessica Babcock is second in command but looking to move up Sister Hubert; Madison Bradley is Sister Robert Ann, who dreams of becoming a country singer; Lauren Butterfield is Sister Amnesia; and Kaleigh Valach is novice Sister Leo. All have moments to shine and they have great chemistry in group numbers. Remembering that Nunsense predates Avenue Q, Amnesia's puppet number "So You Want to Be a Nun" pretty much brings the house down as does what would be the first act closer if the show weren't being performed in one act, "Tackle That Temptation with a Time Step" and the finale "Holier Than Thou."

I was not surprised to find the singing strong, but the dancing is equally strong, not always the case with community theater, so the hero of the production is director-choreographer Cory Boyas. In the past he has demonstrated the ability to keep his choreography within the abilities of his cast, and here he brings his cast's abilities to his vision. Everyone except Reverend Mother does some pretty darn fine tap and so much more. Whenever the dancing isn't perfect, I feel that it is intentional, since the Little Sisters of Hoboken aren't supposed to be professional performers.

Music direction is in the hands of Aaron Cassette, which must mean vocal preparation, since tracks are in use due to safety concerns. The set, probably rented, is by In House Productions and is fine but not the strongest element, and the authentic-looking costumes are by Suzy Sajec.

One of my strongest takeaways from this production is a reminder of how much time, energy and talent our local performers donate to our stages. Many of them are as talented as some of the professionals who work in the area, and could have careers if they wanted. My gratitude to all in this sparkling production for sharing those gifts with the community.

As was the case with last month's Winter Wonderettes, there are multiple ways to enjoy this production: in person; from your car, like a drive-in movie; and streamed at your home, so check the web site below.

Nunsense runs through January 31, 2021, at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts, 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton FL. For tickets and information call 941-748-0111 or visit

Cast (in alphabetic order):
Sister Hubert: Jessica Babcock
Sister Robert Ann: Madison Bradley
Sister Amnesia: Lauren Butterfield
Reverend Mother Sister Mary Regina: Victoria Gross
Sister Leo: Kaleigh Valach