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, 281-583-7573. — DLG

Tamarie Cooper's Old as Hell It wouldn't be summer without a Tamarie Cooper musical, and this year's tightly written show deals with the problems of old age. For Tamarie, the great fear of aging is not the aches and pains, the forgetfulness and the incontinence, though these are faced ruthlessly, but the dark, forbidding dread of being terminally...unhip. Death holds no sting, but being unhip is the bourn from which no traveler returns. The show is breathtakingly funny, approaching brilliance, and aided by consummate actors who seldom miss a chance to enhance the wit with pantomimic vulgarities. Kyle Sturdivant provides a bravura performance. The classic porn pizza delivery scene is skewered, with Karina Pal Montano-Bowers sexy in a towel. Internet "trolls" each have a laptop and horns, and Tamarie tries to upgrade from flyers to "social media." The plot pretends the show is closed down by policemen (Noel Bowers and Seán Patrick Judge) because Tamarie is too old to play an ingenue, and she is replaced by a younger actress, but fights to regain her fame, her hipness — and her boa. Xzavien Hollins is cool as a rapper, and Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott has great reactions as a hipster; all actors play multiple roles. There is an amusing confrontation between an older Tamarie and a younger version (Jessica Janes) exploring youthful dreams. Tamarie's enormous energy, expressive face and engaging persona light up the stage. She sings, she dances and she can carry a show. She is wonderful, and if you haven't met her yet, there is no time like the present. The exciting book is by Patrick Reynolds and the engaging music by Miriam Daly. Get to this annual jamboree of Tamarie Cooper and friends. Through August 24. Catastrophic Theatre, 1119 East Fwy., 713-522-2723. — JJT

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