In the fifth Nunsense adventure, we find the Sisters on an all-expense-paid trip on the "Faiths of All Nations" Cruise. It seems that the Kunkels (the poor family who live behind Mt. Saint Helen's School) have won the lottery. Although they had given their ticket to the Sisters in exchange for some gifts, when it was discovered that the ticket was a winner, the Sisters returned the ticket to the Kunkels. In appreciation, the Kunkels have paid for the Sisters' trip.
After a time at sea, the ship runs into a terrible storm that lasts nearly a week. Many people become seasick including the entertainers - the cast of Fiddler on the Roof. (All except the actor playing Tevye, that is.) The ship's captain, knowing of the Sisters' show-business savvy, requests that the Sisters and "Tevye" put on an original revue. The result: Meshuggah-Nuns!
The theatre is set up to be the ship's auditorium. The stage is set with pieces from what would have been Fiddler on the Roof, with portholes and exits to the ship's deck in view. Act One opens with the nuns coming out into the audience to "warm them up."
As "showtime" nears, the nuns, with the exception of Sister Robert Anne, go backstage to prepare. Sister Robert Anne takes center stage, sets the scene, and explains who the sisters are in case people have not experienced any of their previous ventures. The rest of the cast enters singing the "Prologue" and the rousing "Anchors Aweigh." Then Howard and Mother Superior discuss with the audience the question of finding something in common to create the show. The answer: Guilt. This becomes the hilarious production number "Contrition." The song is followed by Sister Amnesia doing some questionable magic tricks, during which Howard makes some comments in Yiddish. Mother Superior, not understanding, is quickly "brought up to speed" in the duet with Howard, "Say It In Yiddish."
Sister Robert Anne and Sister Hubert, feeling a bit left out, tell of their displeasure ("Tevye & Rev"). No show would be complete without one of Sister Amnesia's country hits and her latest is "My Ship." After her song, she and Howard explain that Klezmer music is sort of the country music of the Jewish people, and they have created their own Klezmer song and dance. The cast (except for Reverend Mother) performs "The Potchky Polka."
Reverend Mother returns to the stage saying that she had been summoned by the Captain for a ship-to-shore phone call. The cast fears trouble, but Reverend Mother allays their fears saying it was only Howard's family wishing everyone good luck with the show.
Throughout the show there are many one-liner jokes and "walk-ons" featuring both convent and Jewish humor from cast members appearing in portholes, doorways, etc.
Mother Superior and Howard point out the fact that there is so much food on the cruise. This leads into a comic monologue for Howard followed by Reverend Mother's appearance as Sophie Tucker, singing "My Fat Is My Fortune." The finale to the first act is a tribute to ship disasters of the cinema... an elaborate production number entitled "Das Boat" featuring Reverend Mother and Howard as Belle and Manny Rosen from The Poseidon Adventure, Sister Hubert as Captain Steubing from The Loveboat, Sister Robert Anne as Molly Brown from the Titanic, and Sister Amnesia as both Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island and the Giant Squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Act Two begins with the cast singing a short reprise of the "Prologue." Howard and Sister Robert Anne sit down and chat about their lives culminating in the ballad "A Love Like This." The entire cast then participates in a reprise of "Say It In Yiddish," complete with a "Hora Dance." Sister Robert Anne points out that they have much more in common than they ever thought except that Howard isn't Catholic. He answers with a comical solo ("If I Were A Catholic"). Sisters Hubert, Robert Anne and Amnesia follow that with their Andrews Sisters-style song, "Three Shayna Maidels." As they exit the stage Reverend Mother and Howard open the Duty Free Shopping Segment which ends with all five cast members appearing as The Village People singing "Matzo Man."
The Sisters, feeling that Howard may be disappointed that Fiddler on the Roof was cancelled, ask the audience to join them singing "Fiddlerspiel," an original song which tells the story of Tevye and his daughters. After the song, the nuns exit the stage, and as Howard is expressing his gratitude, Sister Mary Annette (the famous NUNSENSE puppet) makes an unscheduled appearance as Mae West (in a Mae West life preserver) singing "Come Up And See Me Sometime."
When the others return, Mother Superior sees Sister Mary Annette, grabs her and opening the deck door, heaves her overboard. This causes pandemonium which results in both Sister Amnesia jumping over to save Sister Mary Annette and Reverend Mother following to save Sister Amnesia. Meanwhile, onstage, Sister Robert Anne tries to fill time by singing "I'll Find A Song To Sing."
Finally all are saved. As the cast returns they are all, more than ever, aware of the importance of finding the good in everyone. This is embodied in the finale featuring Sister Hubert with the entire cast singing "Rock the Boat." The curtain comes down as the cast closes with a reprise of "Anchors Aweigh."
- Dan Goggin
Sister Mary Regina (Reverend Mother) is the Mother Superior of the Little Sisters of Hoboken. She tries to be strict and maintain order, but things often get out of her control. She is a hefty woman, a real Sophie Tucker type, with a big belt voice and a personality to match. She grew up in an Irish circus family and was a tightrope walker. Her “show biz” background and sense of humor always shine through her attempt at having a tough exterior. In No. 11, “Das Boat,” she impersonates Belle Rosen from “The Poseidon Adventure.”
Sister Mary Hubert, the Mistress of Novices, wanted to be a nun all her life. She is the most grounded of the nuns and has a gospel/rock singing voice. Since she is second in command to the Reverend Mother and is constantly getting her out of scrapes, she and the Reverend have a healthy and humorous rivalry. In No. 11, “Das Boat,” she plays Captain Steubing from “The Love Boat” and the Giant Squid from “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” She is also one of the “Three Shayna Maidels” in No. 16.
Sister Robert Anne is a streetwise nun from Brooklyn, New York. She is fearless and tough but has a heart and soul of gold. She has a good belt and head voice and feels that she has real theatrical potential. She is constantly frustrated by Reverend Mother’s refusal to let her star in the show. She is Reverend Mother’s nemesis but is loved by all. In No. 11, “Das Boat,” she impersonates Molly Brown who sailed on the Titanic. In No. 16, she is one of the “Three Shayna Maidels.” During the Magic Act, Sister Robert Anne is the voice of the irreverent puppet Sister Mary Annette – whose unscheduled appearances and especially colorful language always manage to upset Reverend Mother’s composure.
Sister Mary Paul (a.k.a. Amnesia) was hit on the head with a crucifix and for a long period didn’t remember who she was. Now everyone knows she is Sister Mary Paul, a country singer who jump-started her recording career by being the first nun to appear at the Grand Ole Opry. She is a daffy Goldie Hawn-type with a great country voice. In No.10, “Hava Nagila,” she appears briefly as Motel, the tailor from Fiddler on the Roof. In No. 11, “Das Boat,” she impersonates Mary Ann from “Gilligan’s Island.” She is also one of the “Three Shayna Maidels” in No. 16. In No. 18, “Come Up and See Me Sometime (Mae’s Moment),” she is the voice of the puppet Sister Mary Annette.
Howard Liszt (formerly Lishinsky) is a professional actor and singer who was to appear as Tevye in the ship’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. Very charming and charismatic, he has an ability to relate to the audience as a standup comic. Although he has been in show business for many years, he has had limited contact with real show business nuns. In. No. 11, “Das Boat,” he impersonates Manny Rosen from “The Poseidon Adventure.”
The Ship’s Purser:
(offstage voiceover by an Assistant Stage Manager)