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‘Crowd-pleasing’ display of Nunsense

Award-winning Vancouver production company teams up with White Rock Players Club to present off-Broadway musical
On stage at Coast Capital Theatre is Nunsense – featuring five Lower Mainland musical theatre talents – co-presented by White Rock Players Club and Fighting Chance Productions.

The current White Rock Players Club presentation represents something different for the club – a partnership with a Vancouver-based company that has become one to watch in community and semi-professional theatre circles.

Multiple award-winning Fighting Chance Productions is co-presenting the musical Nunsense (July 6 to 23 at Coast Capital Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd.).

It’s an irreverent 1985 off-Broadway classic, with book, music and lyrics by Dan Goggin, which has spawned at least six sequels and two television versions.

“Five singing nuns – what more could you want?” asked Fighting Chance artistic director Ryan Mooney, who also directed the 2006 Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society production of The Mikado.

He added the crowd-pleasing, all-female show seemed like an ideal choice for a first foray into White Rock, given the relative ease of staging it and the chronic short supply of male musical theatre performers.

Nunsense purports to show what happens when five nuns with show business backgrounds decide to put on a variety show to raise money for the burials of four of their order, the Little Sisters of Hoboken, which has been devastated in a “tainted vichyssoise” incident.

A tightrope-walking Mother Superior, streetwise stardom-seeking Sister Robert Anne, the ballet obsessed Sister Mary Leo, the straight-shooting Sister Mary Hubert and the forgetful Sister Mary Amnesia (whose conscience is expressed through her constant puppet companion Sister Mary Annette) all provide ample opportunities for scene stealing – and the current production is a vehicle for five strong Lower Mainland musical theatre talents, Mooney noted.

Among them are White Rock resident Nicole Stevens and two performers well known to local audiences from FVGSS productions: Janet Glassford and Cathy Wilmott.

Wilmott recently won 2010 Community Theatre Coalition honours in the musical or pantomime category for both oustanding lead actress (Fighting Chance’s Forbidden Broadway) and supporting actress (FVGSS’ HMS Pinafore), while Glassford has also won praise in Metro Theatre and Arts Club productions.

Completing the cast are Keri Smith, who was a cast member of Fighting Chance’s internationally- recognized The Laramie Project, and Celia Reid, fresh from her portrayal of Peggy Sawyer in Metro Theatre’s 42nd Street.

Musical director Vashti Fairbairn is also well known to local audiences for her stellar work in directing FVGSS orchestras.

The Nunsense co-production, which follows a similar arrangement to co-presenting Forbidden Broadway with the Langley Players, allows Fighting Chance artistic control while the White Rock Players Club provides the venue – and both parties split the door.

Having such a ready-made show is a deal that should prove advantageous for the Players Club.

In just four years of existence, Fighting Chance has already amassed an enviable record of achievement, including critically acclaimed versions of Sweeney Todd, Forbidden Broadway, Rent and The Musical of Musicals: The Musical.

Nunsense will be the 20th production for the company, which scooped a total of six CTC awards last year, including one for Mooney as outstanding director for The Wedding Singer.

“When I first started the company I was 26 and I found it hard to get directing gigs,” he said.

“The ones I got went very well, but it was hard to convince people to let me direct.”

There was also a market, he believed, for different kinds of shows that weren’t being produced by most community theatre groups.

The answer seemed to be to start a new company, he concluded.

“Fortunately I had friends who were set designers and lighting designers and costume designers, and they all had to get stuff to put on their resumes.”

The mutual need has worked well for Fighting Chance, Mooney said, and he’s happy to consider it a “stepping stone” for many talents on the way up.

“We’ve been really fortunate that people want to do shows with us, and we treat them with respect. We’re also fortunate that while a lot of theatre reviewers won’t go to community theatre shows, they have reviewed ours.

While he likes to think of Fighting Chance as “semi professional” in its artistic aspirations, it is technically a community-theatre group.

“We’re a non-profit society and we have a board of directors,” he said.

As artistic director, he said, he brings everything to the board for its approval – but the board, under the group’s bylaws, is appointed by the artistic director.

“It’s not to keep creative control, but ensure people are on the same wavelength,” Mooney said.

“In my experience, people get caught up in what they would like to perform. We want to keep things fresh and alive. Nobody’s coming in with their own agenda.”

Mooney also said he’s glad Fighting Chance has a “working board.”

“It’s not just people who show up the AGM and not just theatre people – we have people with a business background as well.”

The show will play Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets can be reserved by calling 604-536-7535 or visiting

About the Author: Alex Browne

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