Milwaukee Repertory Theater Launches The Holiday Season with Nuncrackers!

Yes, Nuncrackers, and it’s exactly what you think it is. The hilarious and slightly dysfunctional nuns of Nunsense are poised to bring you a portion of the Nutcracker ballet with pink tutus at the ready…but sudden disaster and hilarity ensues!

Do you need to have seen the original Nunsense to understand Nuncrackers? Heavens no! Like any successful sequel, author and composer, Dan Goggin has made sure that the characters are re-introduced and that any required story from Nunsense is back filled here. And quite frankly, I think that Nuncrackers might be even funnier if you don’t have knowledge of the original and come into the theater without any expectations or preconceived notions. But maybe that’s just me.

So here we are in the basement of the convent at Mount Saint Helen’s School, as Sister Mary Paul, Sister Mary Hubert, Sister Robert Anne, and Sister Mary Regina prepare to tape a Christmas show in their new TV studio for a public access channel. And they are being assisted by Father Virgil…not necessarily ably assisted but enthusiastically so!

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

The action revolves around the nuns presenting Christmas carols and some new songs that riff off of Christmas carols. There is an incredible amount of humor to be mined here! And in between the singing and dancing…Mr. Goggin has sprinkled in a generous supply of jokes, puns, and little skits. The front facing story is a lot, lot of fun!

There are a number of side bars here…they happen off stage and are relayed by our favorite nuns…or they are translated for us from several interrupting phone calls delivered by a black rotary dial wall phone. The phone and the mention of public access television, for me, was a bit of humor on its own since those are things are so very last century!

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Fortunately for Milwaukee audiences, director and choreographer Kelley Faulkner understands the gags and songs and nuisances to a tee and has assembled the perfect ensemble to bring us the Little Sisters of Hoboken and of course Father Virgil! This troupe plays together like they have been a team for years. The rhythms and timing of the jokes is as quick and sure as the songs and dance numbers. All of the principles are remarkable in their roles. And after reading their bios in the playbill, I was amazed that three of our five actors have appeared on other local stages but are debuting at the Rep…and our other two intrepid nuns are debuting here as well. After this performance, I am sure that we will be able to enjoy their work in future Rep presentations for years to come.

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Seth K Hale is Father Virgil…a role of a very humble and disarming priest but obviously inspired to assist the nuns to the best of his ability…and he is something of a ham as well. Hale embodies the character through and through.

As Sister Mary Regina, Ashley Ovidedo is an absolute scene stealer. An infectious presence on stage, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone adopt the character so absolutely as Oviedo does here. It was a literal thrill to watch.

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

And my goodness, the song and dance chops of Katie Kallaus as Sister Mary Paul, Meka King as Sister Mary Hubert, and Isabel Quintero as Sister Mary Regina are flawless…add to that their comedic gifts…and you have the perfect Nuncrackers! I really think that this is one show where the actors are having more fun than the audience.

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Now, without being too much the spoiler, three things to watch for. The arrival of the Three Kings, the dueling sugar plum fairies, and the puppet. I hadn’t been promised a puppet, so I was amazed and pleased at its appearance.

Nuncrackers is my recommended start for this holiday season! And arrive early and have dinner and a refreshing beverage!!

Nuncrackers runs through January 7, 2024 at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret. But this is an extremely popular musical, so don’t dawdle on acquiring tickets. You can do that HERE!

Extra Credit Reading: The Program

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