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Capsule Stage Reviews: From My Hometown, Nunsense

From My Hometown Three male performers, known by their hometowns, meet on the way to callback auditions at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. Act One introduces them, and Act Two does more of the same, before skyrocketing them to success as a trio. Their story is told in dialogue and music, some original, and some R&B's greatest hits. "Memphis" is played by Anthony Boggess-Glover, a 25-year veteran of the Ensemble Theatre, who has an imposing stage presence, an engaging smile, and can dance up a storm. His charm anchors the evening. "Detroit" is portrayed by Jobari Parker-Namdar, younger and with some of the poise and flash of a young Sinatra and the dance authority of Michael Jackson. His character is edgy, with an overtone of arrogance, but invariably interesting. Ron Jonson plays "Philly" — written as a bit of a bumbler, and compelled by the script to be less adroit as a dancer, though he has the moves when needed. He is naïve, eminently likable, and completes the triumvirate of vastly different performers having one thing in common — the dream of success. These are talented singers, and skilled actors as well — their rich performances bring to life a predictable script largely devoid of surprises, as seamless rhythms carry us along on waves of pleasure. "Working in a Coal Mine" and "Chain Gang" strike a serious note, while "Walkin' the Dog" and "I'm Your Puppet" hit exuberant themes. Much of the music consists of original songs by the multi-talented Lee Summers, who conceived the show and brought in his collaborators, Ty Stephens and Robert Rawlings, Jr. The show is brilliantly directed by Ensemble's Patdro Harris. With a better Act Two, what is already more than good could be great. Don't miss it. Through July 28, Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main, 713-520-0055. — JJT

Nunsense Dan Goggin's religiously incorrect Nunsense, thoroughly entertaining all at Texas Repertory Theatre, is silly, absolutely mindless and pretty much totally forgettable once it's over — oftentimes while you're watching it — but there's some sort of genius behind it. How can you fault a show that has played ten solid years off-Broadway since its 1985 premiere, has never stopped being performed all over the world and has spawned — count them — six different versions, including a Jewish edition (Meshuggah-Nuns), a Las Vegas-type revue (Nunsensations) and a drag extravaganza (Nunsense A-Men!). This is theater magic at its best. There's room for all of them, especially during the summer doldrums when regional theaters have to pay the rent. There is nothing wrong with a show whose only reason to exist is to entertain. Really, how can you go wrong with a sweet little musical about nuns? That's reason enough to see it, as is being in the presence of five superlative singing actors who put across this material as if it's vintage Sondheim, or, more likely, Jerry Herman, which this show resembles. The plot is meager as it is: Five Little Sisters of Hoboken put on a charity show to raise money to bury the remaining members of the order, who now reside in the convent's freezer after being unintentionally poisoned by chef Sister Julia. Each nun is personable, cute and cuddly, as only comedy nuns can be, and each wants to be the star of the show, as only cute, cuddly musical comedy nuns can be. The wonderful plus of this show is Goggin's music, which runs the gamut from rousing gospel, Sophie Tucker blues, Andrew Sisters '40s swing and Broadway pop to Rodgers and Hammerstein sentiment. Goggin's score is a whole lot better than his lyrics, which rhyme incessantly along the lines of the "June, moon, spoon" variety. But in the company of such accommodating performers who knock themselves out to wow us, who cares? Patti Rabaza, as warm but firm Mother Superior, belts with velvety mezzo ("Turn Up the Spotlight"); Lori Callaway, as Sister Hubert, raises the roof with the Act II finale's gospel number ("Holier Than Thou"); Robin Van Zandt, as streetwise Sister Robert Anne, channels early Streisand for her turn in the spotlight ("I Just Want to Be a Star"); Connor Lyon, as Sister Mary Leo, struts her inner ballerina in choreographer Lauren Dolk's inventive routines ("Benedicite"); and Lendsey Kersey, as innocent Sister Mary Amnesia, who can't remember how or why she got to the convent, showcases her amazing vocal talents that run from operatic coloratura ("So You Want to Be a Nun") to country/western lowdown ("I Could've Gone to Nashville"). The five put on quite a show — which gets better and more pulled together after Act I's slow intros and exposition. The hoary jokes don't get funnier or better, but nuns going wacky and sort-of-sexy is pretty nigh foolproof. The singing is the star in this ecumenical revue, and all five performers — neatly abetted by musical director Debbie Wiley and her orchestral sextet, and put through their nimble paces by director Dan O'Brien — sail through the varied genres like the showbiz veterans they are. Thank goodness those sacred virtues of patience, humility and meekness are completely unknown qualities upon the wicked stage. Through July 28. 14243 Stuebner Airline Rd., 281-583-7573. — DLG

 
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