Nuns return to dinner theater in Hide-A-Way

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2016

What could be more fun that an evening with a nun? How about five of them? What if they sing and dance and sparkle in showgirl headgear?

It’s not farfetched; it’s “Nunsensations!” Picayune on Stage Theater Group will present the musical comedy Sept. 23-25 at Water’s Edge Restaurant in Hide-A-Way L

Actors in costume from Picayune On Stage.  Photo by JoAnne Norton

Actors in costume from Picayune On Stage.
Photo by JoAnne Norton


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The play is the fifth chapter in the “Nunsense” franchise by Dan Goggin. The musicals, which started in 1985, follow the adventures of five nuns and their struggling convent and school. In this installment, the Little Sisters of Hoboken are offered $10,000 by a former student to perform a show at the Pump Room in the Mystique Motor Lodge in Las Vegas.

Mother Superior Mary Regina is none too keen on taking her troupe to a place so known for sin, according to Bonnie Hughes, who returns to the role for a third time.

“She’s very nervous about being out there and doesn’t think nuns and Las Vegas go together,” said Hughes. “She supposes after six days of sinning, they can all go to confession.”

The performance also features Becky Highnote, Tara Poolson, Sara Unbehagen and Caitlin Palmer. The production is being directed by veteran Picayune on Stage performer Gladys Hughes, and Poolson is the musical director. Donna Aguilar is the stage manager; she also built the massive “Holy Roller” slot machine featured in the Vegas scenes.

Gladys Hughes credits a core group of about 10 people who worked to put on the three-day production.

Highnote called her character, Sister Mary Hubert, the mistress of novices at Little Sisters of Hoboken, “the real power behind the throne.” As she shook out her costume for a recent rehearsal, she pointed out it was looking a little bedraggled.

“We’re going to be wrinkly nuns,” she told Unbehagen.

Poolson plays Sister Mary Paul, commonly called Sister Amnesia, who was addled when she was smacked on the head by a falling crucifix. Sister Amnesia performs a ventriloquism act with Sister Marionette, a dummy in a habit who sings country music.

“Fortunately, she’s really a ventriloquist,” Gladys Hughes said of Poolson, who learned the skill from her aunt, a professional performer.

Palmer, who was in “Nunsense” several years earlier, returns to the role of Sister Mary Leo, who thinks she can serve the Lord by dancing. “It hasn’t worked out that way,” Bonnie Hughes said.

Unbehagen is the “rebel nun,” young Sister Robert Anne; she played the wisecracking tough girl in “Nunsense 2” four years ago.

“I was in a gang in Brooklyn,” Unbehagen said about her streetwise character. “I got arrested, and decided to turn my life around.”

“She retains a lot of her … actions,” Bonnie Hughes said. “She has thought about leaving every day for the first eight years, but she realizes she doesn’t have to worry about her hair or her makeup.”

Sister Robert Anne is the also the troupe’s driver.

One of the showstopping numbers is “T&A (Talent &Attitude),” Bonnie Hughes said. She sets up the scene:

Mother Mary Regina tells the sisters that they have it.

Sister Robert Anne says, “We do?”

Mother Mary Regina replies, “Yes, we do. I have the talent. You have the attitude.”

Another song puts bedazzled Village People headgear atop the nun’s coifs and veils as they sing “TTM&R,” or take the money and run.

“We’re not the average showgirl types,” Bonnie Hughes said.

Work on the production began in July, immediately after the closing of the theater group’s production of “Hansel and Gretel.”

“We usually plan 36 rehearsals for a show,” Gladys Hughes said at a recent rehearsal at the troupe’s building at 208 S. Virginia Ave. The rehearsal space, which was dedicated in May, will remain busy after “Nunsensations!” closes.

Picayune on Stage’s next production will be a children’s play with a Christmas theme, Bonnie Hughes said. Auditions will be held Oct. 3 and 4.

The production moves this weekend from the rehearsal hall to the Water’s Edge Restaurant at Hide-a-Way Lake.

“We need a couple of strong guys if anyone wanted to come and help,” Bonnie Hughes said. “The stage comes in seven pieces. We have to move the stage and the flats.” Volunteers should arrive at 3 p.m. on Sunday, and anyone with questions can call her at 601-799-1714.

Tickets to the dinner theater are $33. Doors open at 6, dinner will be served at 6:30, and the show begins at 8 on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, doors open at noon, dinner is at 12:30 p.m., and the show begins at 2 p.m. The menu includes soup, salad, lasagna, garlic bread, a vegetable of the day and dessert.

Reservations may be made by calling the HAWL office at 601-798-1484 in Hide-a-Way Lake and 601-799-1714 outside, or by contacting Bonnie Hughes at 601-799-1714 or at