Not many actresses face the challenge of dancing around in a full nun's habit. Not many other people face that challenge, either.
Glenda Brundage does every night she rehearses "Nunsense" in costume.
"It's unbelievable,'' said Brundage, who appears in the musical that opens Thursday at the Lawrence Community Theatre. "We do so much dancing. Cathy Hamilton (Sister Hubert) and I have a musical number where we meet in the middle and then she twirls out. Well, the first time we did it wearing our rosaries, when we flung out they got entangled, and we were caught on each other.''
"Nunsense," as one may imagine, is about singing and dancing nuns members of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, a New Jersey convent. They're holding a fund-raiser at the Mount St. Helens school.
"The show is part musical and part musical revue," said Mary Doveton, the show's director. "So it's part logical and part illogical.''
SAYING TOO much more about the plot would spoil some of the outrageous jokes and puns, which come fast and thick. Just be warned: It's not an ordinary church fund-raiser, and these nuns aren't in an ordinary situation. But there will be a pop quiz, with prizes that border on the bizarre, Doveton said.
The musical by Dan Goggins opened off-Broadway six years ago and has become a theatrical cottage industry, spawning many other productions across the country and winning four Outer Critics Circle awards back in New York.
In an unprecedented move, the theater will perform the musical over the course of three weekends instead of two.
"The track record of the show has been that it becomes a very hot ticket," said Doveton, who is also the director of the theater. "It's so funny, people like to come back and bring their friends. Also, at our theater sometimes it's hard getting the word of mouth out for the first weekend, and then by the second we sell out every night. So we want to make sure people can come.''
DOVETON IS using Seth Osburn to lead a small musical ensemble that will be incorporated into the show's plot. DeDe Dresser has the rather daunting task of choreographing a show as if nuns were doing the dancing.
"These people are supposed to be real nuns," Doveton said. "They have to sing and dance, but they have to be nuns first. That's why this show may be light in content, but it's very difficult to do. The cast has to work very hard.''
"It's a great group of girls to be involved with," said Brundage, who plays Sister Amnesia, a nun with a memory loss. "I've never before worked with an all-female cast. We had immediate camaraderie.''
Brundage, who played Bertha in last season's "Bertha, the Sewing Machine Girl," is joined in the cast by Hamilton, Lana Gribas, Fran Lantz and Maureen Boyd. Jack Riegle is doing the sets, Charles Lown the lighting and Teresa Windheuser the costumes.
THOSE COSTUMES, incidentally, are full nun's habits despite their musical abilities, they are traditionalist. "I think people who were in parochial or public school in the '50s and '60s will catch on to a lot," Doveton said. "It was a different method of education. It was much more rigid. These are definitely pre-Vatican II nuns.''
If that weren't enough, audiences will get to see a home movie of the nuns in action.
"There's a scene where the nuns describe the order, and usually it's done with slides," Doveton said. "So we went out one day with David Yonnally, and we shot a film that we'll play during the performance.''
WOMEN WHO dress in these old-fashioned habits get noticed, often in a big way, Brundage discovered. "I was driving over to a luncheon where we were going to perform, and people stopped and looked at me," Brundage said. "It was really unusual. A whole busload of school children all stared at me.''
But the bottom line of "Nunsense" is the music, and there's plenty of it, all sung by Doveton's group of energetic nuns.
"There are 12 musical numbers in the piece that the nuns sing in three-, four- or five-part harmony," she said. "The dancing requires steps from tap to ballet with everything in between. There's a whole barrel of musical styles in the piece.''
"Nunsense" will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. next Sunday at the Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 N.H. The show will again be performed at 8 p.m. Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 10-12, with 2:30 p.m. matinees Oct. 6 and 13. Tickets are available at the theater box office.