THEATER | “Nunset Boulevard” at the Chanhassen: The nun also sets…and sets, and sets, and sets

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The Chanhassen Dinner Theatres are currently presenting the world premiere of Dan Goggin’s Nunset Boulevard in their Fireside Theatre. Nunset Boulevard is the seventh show in the Nunsense series—a series that is showing its age.

Though I haven’t seen any of Goggin’s most recent shows, I have seen the original Nunsense several times and it still ranks among my all-time favorites—I still listen to the soundtrack regularly. But think of your favorite authors who have a new book published every year. At what point do the books evolve from the great reads that you couldn’t wait to get your hands on to books written just because they’ll sell large numbers of copies? Nunset Boulevard feels like it’s on the latter side of that line. (In fact, Goggin told the Pioneer Press—supposedly in jest—that his business manager advised him, “With the economy the way it is, just keep those nuns dancing.”)

The premise of this show is that the nuns have been invited to appear at the Hollywood Bowl and arrive to find that they are actually performing at the Hollywood Bowl-a-Rama. The sixth show, Nunsensations, found the sisters invited to play in Las Vegas on a bet that was made unbeknownst to them. Somehow this trip led to the Hollywood Bowl invite although it was never made clear to me why the nuns accepted. As Reverend Mother said, “I can’t believe we were scammed again.” Neither can I.

nunset boulevard, playing through march 14 at the chanhassen dinner theatres. for tickets ($31-$61) and information, see chanhassentheatres.com.

Predictably, Sister Mary Leo, who has always wanted to be a ballerina, decides that this is her chance to be discovered as a Hollywood actress. There just happens to be an audition going on right across the street from the bowling alley and, of course, she gets the part and has to make a tough decision. I won’t spoil the ending for you but can I say that it too is predictable.

The voices of all five of the actresses are strong and the singing and choreography (although not very ambitious) are enjoyable. I especially enjoyed “The Hollywood Blondes,” a tribute to past Hollywood actresses; the costumes for that number are very funny. Bonnie Lee as Mother Superior and Deborah Del Mastro as Sister Robert Anne are convincing in their roles and have good chemistry with the audience.

None of the songs stand out as particularly catchy or memorable, and the storyline is weak. At one point Sister Hubert suggests (and then sings) that any good show should have a plot, and I have to agree with that. I also wonder if the use of religion as the basis for comedy shows hasn’t reached the saturation point. Playing right now in addition to this production are Sister’s Christmas Catechism at the Ordway and Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas at the Plymouth Playhouse. What used to be surprising and irreverent—even shocking to some—has now become that old joke that everyone has heard already.

Promotional material assures audiences that Nunset Boulevard can be enjoyed on its own, even if you have never seen any of the previous productions. My friend Barbara, who was with me, had not previously experienced the song and dance of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, and she shared my reaction to the production. If you have seen the first six shows, you are certainly a true Nunsense fan and will enjoy this show as a continuation of the story—but if you are looking for something fresh and new, I would find a different show.

This event is featured in the Daily Planet’s complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.