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The Star
By Rubin Khoo

Catastrophe has befallen The Little Sisters of Kampong Pandan. Just after being evicted from their leper colony by a group of Protestant missionaries, tragedy struck when a particularly venomous bowl of tom yam soup practically wiped out the entire convent - with the exception of just five nuns, who now bear the responsibility of burying the bodies of the 52 victims.

After a successful round of fundraising, 48 nuns were buried. But when Mother Superior decides to indulge in a VCD player, the nuns are rendered penniless and unable to bury the remaining four. With the bodies stashed in their freezer and the Jabatan Kesihatan on their backs, the nuns must now quickly raise enough money to bury the lat four corpses.

Hidden beneath the habits of the remaining five nuns are a whole host of talents just waiting for the right time to be unleashed. They are led by the Mother Superior, Sister Mary Regina (played by Shanthini Venugopal), a former tight-rope walker. The others are Sister Mary Hubert (Suzan Manen), currently serving the order as Mistress of the Novices, who trains new recruits despite the fact that she was once trampled by a camel that went berserk; Sister Mary Leo (Zoë Christian) who, being proficient in ballet, dreams of achieving fame as a dancing nun; streetwise Sister Robert Anne (Mary George) who hails from Sentul; and Sister Mary Amnesia (Cheah Siew Oui) who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head.

Capitalising on these varied backgrounds, the nuns decide to raise funds via a benefit performance. Hence, the plot for Nunsense, a musical comedy by Dan Goggin, the latest production undertaken by Gardner & Wife.

Indeed, that the musical revolves around nuns who are caught in such absurd circumstances is in itself an indication that Nunsense has all the ingredients for an enjoyable performance.

And true to its promise, the performance was certainly fun. Anything short of this, however, would have been unacceptable, particularly since the production incorporates the talents of crowd-pleaser Shanthini Venugopal. The charm of Venugopal is such that she induces smiles just by simply walking onto the stage.

With such presence, it would have been impossible for a production of this nature to fall short of expectations, humour-wise. As Mother Superior, Venugopal carried most of the show with her hilarious antics, which include, among others, an impression of the Pope in a chef's hat, getting high on glue, and dancing with feathered boas.

This, however, was the extent of Nunsense's appeal. The rest of the cast, while being impressive, did not exhibit the same presence as Venugopal and, as a result, were relegated to the supporting category.

The songs, too, were pleasant enough but were not tunes that you would necessarily remember on your way out of the theatre, a shame since the production incorporates the musical direction of Holland Jancaitis. While the cast were comfortable in their delivery of the songs, their enunciation (pardon the pun) was not clear, which meant that it became difficult to make sense of the lyrics.

Nuntheless, watching Nunsense was an enjoyable way of spending a Saturday night (especially if the alternative is an evening at home, glued to the TV). Like most Broadway productions, the show is interactive and the audience (the Catholics, I suspect) were surprisingly responsive, which can only lead me to conclude that most enjoyed the show.