When: Opens 8 p.m. Jan. 20 and continues 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
Where: Norris Theatre, 27570 Norris Center Drive, Rolling Hills Estates.
Information: 310-544-0403, http://www.palosverdes performingarts.com
It all started in 1981 with a line of greeting cards created by Dan Goggin that featured nuns saying funny and unexpected things.
Although they were an immediate hit, Goggin is still stunned at how far his spirited and wacky nuns have come.
“It’s so surreal, it really just boggles my mind,” said Goggin, who turned his card concept into the wildly successful musical “Nunsense.”
Now the acclaimed musical, with more than 10,000 productions in 26 languages all over the world since its debut, comes to Palos Verdes Performing Arts in Rolling Hills Estates with eight performances scheduled Jan. 20-29 at the Norris Theatre.
Featuring five nuns who plot to put on a musical to raise funds for a mass funeral, the show opened off-Broadway in 1985.
Since then it has won four Outer Circle Awards and has become the second-longest running off-Broadway show in history thanks to its 10-year, 3,672 performance run.
It’s second only to “The Fantasticks.”
“I think it’s because of the combination of the fact that there is still a
little mystery to them (nuns) and the fact that these nuns are acting in a way that everybody seems to think is un-nunly,” Goggin said, explaining one of the reasons behind the success of the show. “Although the funny thing is that real nuns are more zany than people would ever guess.”
And he would know something about nuns, since he attended Catholic school as a boy in Michigan and was inspired to write the musical by the nuns who taught him as a kid.
“Our nuns, for whatever reason, they were really fun,” Goggin recalled. “We had nuns that would go ice skating with us in their traditional habits.”
The show follows five nuns from the Little Sisters of Hoboken Convent who are the only survivors of a cooking mishap that kills 52 other nuns when the cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidentally serves poisoned soup.
So to pay for the funeral expenses, and with some of the bodies stored in the freezer, the surviving nuns come up with a plan to put on a stage production of “Grease” to raise enough money for the burial costs.
It’s a wacky plot that has spawned several sequels by Goggin, including “Nunsense II: The Second Coming,” “Sister Amnesia’s Country Western Nunsense Jamboree,” “Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical” and “Nunset Boulevard,” which had the nuns travel to Hollywood to perform at the Hollywood Bowl.
Goggin also has a TV series in the works.
The pilot for the show was filmed last year and picks up the story after the nuns go to Hollywood. It’s being shopped around to networks.
“We have our fingers crossed,” Goggin said.
While he has his fingers crossed hoping the TV show gets picked up, there’s no doubting the continued success of the stage show.
And those involved with the local production say a large part of that success is because “Nunsense” isn’t just a wacky and goofy musical.
It’s also a show with a surprising amount of heart since the sisters all reveal personal stories about themselves and the aspirations they had while ultimately being at peace with their choice to wear the habit.
“We’re focusing on the heart that is written in the script and is there to be explored,” said Long Beach resident Ken Parks, who is directing the production. “And we also have a cast of some really extremely talented ladies, so I think that combination is going to be pretty spectacular.
“That’s one of the things I like about this show is that every character has a moment when they have a chance to speak from the heart and even though the situation is irreverent, their devotion to God is not,” he added.
In the role of Sister Mary Hubert, the Mistress of Novices, is Silver Lake resident Jennifer Leigh Warren, whose resume includes roles in “Big River” on Broadway and in the Lincoln Center’s production of “Marie Christine.”
“They’re turning me into a nun,” Warren said with a laugh when discussing her latest gig.
Warren has been a long time fan of the musical and jumped at the chance to join this convent with other nuns.
“They’re all just lovable, wacky and just fun, and it’s all with a sense of love. And who couldn’t like that?” she said of the nuns.
“We all need a little bit of love and fun right now, and I just think this is the perfect thing to go to right now.”