Wacky Nuns 

Knock 'Em Dead presents hilarious musical

With the usual convenience of the Knock 'Em Dead Dinner Theatre, there is free parking, a delicious dinner (by Sonia's Catering) and a fun show, Meshuggah-Nuns, all in one place--just like a cruise. And the wait staff are friendly, energetic actors--and nuns--adding to the merriment of the evening.

What a mix! Four dancing, singing nuns on Dramamine and a Jewish actor with an itchy fake beard, all trapped on a Golden Delicious Cruise that hits the storm of storms, leaving only the five of them well enough to entertain the passengers.

And we're the lucky passengers.

Fiddler on the Roof it ain't, but Meshuggah-Nuns (the fifth installment in Don Goggin's Nunsense series) is a non-stop romp of vaudeville style numbers, starting with "Anchors Away," through "Say It in Yiddish," "If I Were a Catholic" and even "Come Up and See Me Sometime," ala Sophie Tucker.

The four nuns are the Rev. Mother (played by Bea Eichmann Allen), Sister Robert Anne (Michelle Bass), Sister Mary Hubert (Leta Neustaedter) and Sister Amnesia (Susie Black)--from her loss of memory when a crucifix fell on her head.

The show was dedicated to the memory of Randy Black, Susie's husband, who died in January.

The lone member of a Fiddler cast on shipboard who is well enough to perform is Howard, played with hilarious eagerness by Robert McDiarmid. His mellow singing voice and comic talents add considerably to the skits and the variety show run amok, while his sometimes mournful facial expressions reminds you he is the "Jewish" Tevye from Anatevka.

Black wins the audience's hearts with her sweet baby face and giddy giggle, as she presents "Sister Amnesia's Magic Moments," a hilarious magic show with audience participation, puppet, scarf and card tricks and religious prizes.

Elements of Fiddler keep popping into the show, with subtle changes, such as the milk-bottle-on-the-hats dance, a Yiddish lesson, and the nuns' "Fiddlerspiel" with the audience singing along. (It almost feels like a Prairie Dog Production with all this audience interaction.) The Meshuggah-Nuns tackle other spoof-able subjects, such as at-sea disasters like Das Boot and The Poseidon Adventure.

Eichmann-Allen is superb as the Rev. Mother, trying to maintain order and dignity but having a ball with her funny songs. Neustaedter mesmerizes the audience with her dazzling smile and elegant model-like persona. Bass shows off her remarkable voice in her jazz and blues songs. And Sister Amnesia is, well, Black at her crazy best. Add the wild flashing lights, rotating spotlights and the saucy puppet, Sister Mary Annette, and you have a daffy musical show any ship would love to present.

However, this episode in the lives of the Sisters of Hoboken lacks a plot--even a silly one--such as the first introduction of these talented "sisters," when the hapless cook killed all the nuns in their convent except our dauntless four. But Nunsense author-lyricist Goggin doesn't seem to mind, and these nuns and their adventures will probably go on forever, as they sing, kick up their heels (well covered in their medieval habits) and win laughs with their sly, but squeaky-clean jokes.

By Dan Goggin; directed by Scott Beseman, musical director Brent Jones. Knock 'Em Dead Dinner Theatre, 333 S. 9th St. Thur.-Sat. through May 6. Thur.: 7 p.m. (show only), $18 general, $15 students, seniors and military personnel. Fri.-Sat.: Dinner at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. (dinner and show) $37; show only, $20. For reservations, call 385-0021 or visit www.kedproductions.org.

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