is a musical
comedy with a book, music, and lyrics by Dan Goggin
The Nunsense concept originated as a line of greeting cards featuring a nun offering tart quips with a clerical slant. The cards caught on so quickly that Goggin decided to expand the concept into a cabaret show called The Nunsense Story, which opened for a four-day run at Manhattan's Duplex and remained for 38 weeks, encouraging its creator to expand it into a full-length theater production.
The original production of Nunsense, directed by Goggin, opened on December 12 1985 at the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre, where it ran for 3,672 performances, becoming the second-longest running off-Broadway show in history (after The Fantasticks). By the time it closed, it had become an international phenomenon translated into at least 26 languages with more than 6,000 productions worldwide. It has grossed over $300 million worldwide, and more than 25,000 women have played in Nunsense productions worldwide, including Edie Adams, Maxine Audley, Kaye Ballard, Honor Blackman, Pat Carroll, Peggy Cass, Phyllis Diller, Louise Gold, Maggie Fitzhugh and JoAnne Worley.
The five-woman production won four Outer Critics Circle Awards, including best off-Broadway musical, best book and best music. A 1985 London cast recording was made, as well as a 1986 recording with the off-Broadway cast. The show opened on London's West End at the Fortune Theatre in March 1987.
Goggin adapted both Nunsense and Nunsense 2 for television productions with Rue McClanahan as the Mother Superior. The show and its sequels are popular choices of community theatre and summer stock troupes. In 2004, the "20th Anniversary All-Star Tour" of the show starred Kaye Ballard as Sister Mary Regina, Georgia Engel as Sister Mary Leo, Mimi Hines as Sister Mary Amnesia, Darlene Love as Sister Mary Hubert, and Lee Meriwether as Sister Robert Anne.
Five of the 19 surviving Little Sisters of Hoboken
, a one-time missionary
order that ran a leper colony
on an island south of France
, discover that their cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidentally killed the other fifty-two residents of the convent with her tainted vichyssoise
while they were off playing bingo
with a group of Maryknolls
. Upon discovering the disaster, Mother Superior had a vision in which she was told to start a greeting card company to raise funds for the burials. The greeting cards were an enormous success and, thinking there was plenty of money, the Reverend Mother bought a VCR
for the convent, leaving her with no money 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. Participating in the project are Mother Superior Mary Regina, a former circus performer who can't 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. The entertainment that they present includes solo star turns, madcap dance routines, and an audience quiz
Naturally, VCRs are now no longer such current or expensive devices, so modern presentations of the show tend to substitute newer or more generic terms such as "home entertainment system" or a "Plasma TV."
- Welcome - Sister Mary Regina
- Nunsense is Habit-Forming - Company
- A Difficult Transition - Company
- The Quiz - Sister Mary Amnesia
- Benedicite - Sister Mary Leo
- The Biggest Ain't the Best - Sisters Hubert and Leo
- Playing Second Fiddle - Sister Robert Anne
- So You Want To Be a Nun - Sister Mary Amnesia
- Turn Up the Spotlight - Sister Mary Regina
- Lilacs - Sisters Regina, Hubert, Leo and Amnesia
- A Word from Reverend Mother - Sister Mary Amnesia
- Tackle That Temptation With a Time Step - Sister Hubert and Company
- Robert to The Rescue - Sister Robert Anne
- Growing Up Catholic - Sister Robert Anne with Hubert, Leo and Amnesia
- We've Got To Clean Out the Freezer - Company
- Just a Coupl'a Sisters - Sisters Regina and Hubert
- The Dying Nun Ballet - Sister Mary Leo w/Robert Anne
- Baking with the BVM - Sisters Regina, Hubert & Amnesia
- I Just Want To Be a Star - Sister Robert Anne
- The Drive In - Sisters Robert Anne, Amnesia and Leo
- The Movie - Company
- I Could've Gone to Nashville - Sister Mary Amnesia
- Gloria in Excelsis Deo - Sister Mary Regina and Company
- Holier Than Thou - Sister Mary Hubert and Company
- Nunsense Is Habit-Forming (Reprise) - Company
The show's astounding success prompted five sequels
. The first, Nunsense 2: The Second Coming
, takes place six weeks after the sisters have staged their first benefit. This time the grateful nuns are presenting a show to thank all the people who supported them in their freshman outing, but chaos erupts when two Franciscans
come to claim Sister Mary Amnesia - who has won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes
- as one of their own, and the nuns learn a talent scout is in the audience to see them strut their stuff. An audience-participation bingo
game is only one of the show's many highlights.
The second, Sister Amnesia's Country Western Nunsense Jamboree, is presented as a stop on the promotional tour for the nun's new album, I Could've Gone to Nashville, released after she regained her memory and discovered she really was Sister Mary Paul, a former country singer. In this edition the audience participates in a rousing auction.
The third, Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical, a behind-the-scenes look at a holiday television special taped by the sisters for Cable Access in their convent basement studio, culminates in a wild spoof of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet.
In the fourth, Meshuggah-Nuns!, the sisters are on a "Faiths of All Nations" cruise when the on-board cast of Fiddler on the Roof gets seasick, prompting the ship’s captain to ask them to put on a show.
The fifth and so-far final edition, Nunsensations: The Nunsense Vegas Revue takes the sisters to the Nevada gambling mecca when a parishioner offers them $10,000 to perform in a club. After being convinced "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas", the Reverend Mother agrees, and before long the nuns are clad in feathers and sequins and wowing the crowd at the Pump Room in the Mystique Motor Lodge.
Nunsense A-Men, the original show with all the characters portrayed by men in drag, was staged in Brazil as Novicas Rebeldes before transferring to New York City in 1998.
A new version named Nunsense: The Mega-Musical Version is a remake of the original featuring additional songs, lines, and characters.
Besides the original production, cast recordings of the first two sequels and a London production were released