TTB: It can be said because of their popularity with audiences, both the original Nunsense (premiered in 1985) and Nunsense A-Men (premiered in 1998) are classic comedic musicals. What makes this show a sure-fire hit with audiences?
MM: Dan Goggin, the creator of the Nunsense franchise, has a keen sense of what audiences enjoy and want. That’s why there are seven Nunsense sequels! There’s an interesting quote from The New York Times about his body of work: “It’s no news that Dan Goggin’s Nunsense and his variations thereof, very small musicals that morph into humongous cash cows, have been the saviors of theaters all over the world.”
TTB: Matthew, you are an audience favorite across the Theatre Tampa Bay region. You provide every audience who experiences your work on stage with the highest quality of entertainment. You are playing Mother Superior, AKA Sister Mary Regina, in Nunsense A-Men. In addition to your incredible showmanship, The Straz has brought together a team of comedy gold performers. Would you talk to us about the other “Sisters” in your order?
MM: This team has been a joy! Director/Choreographer Alison Burns has put together a slick, tuneful and hilarious musical comedy that honors the original show but makes it feel fresh and contemporary. Playing opposite me as Mistress of the Novices, Sister Mary Hubert is the hilarious JS McLaughlin who has also done this show a few times. Rounding out the cast is Aaron Castle (Mary Amnesia), Jaryn McCann (Mary Leo) and RP McLaughlin (Robert Anne). They each bring such incredible talent to their roles. During a production of Nuncrackers in 2001, Dan Goggin gave us a valuable note after a preview. He said the secret to this show is that the characters are “nuns pretending to be showgirls and not showgirls pretending to be nuns.” This cast may be in the show because of a gender bending gag, but they play these Little Sisters of Hoboken with admiration, humor and lots of heart.
TTB: With the many great characters you have played in your career, you have returned to this musical and this character many times. What attracts you as a performer to this character and show?
MM: It really found me. I moved to New York in 2001 and I booked my first Nunsense show at a dinner theatre in Rock Island, Illinois. After that, I frequently find myself at home in the Nunsense multiverse. I’ve been in 5 different Nunsense productions over the years. I think I also love the idea that great showbiz ladies have played Reverend Mother including Phyllis Diller. Jo Anne Worley, Kaye Ballard, Sally Struthers and Rue McClanahan. Many of those names won’t mean much to the young ones (Google!), but they STiILL mean a lot to me.
TTB: This is a show audiences may not realize they need in their lives. What do you hope audiences will take with them after experiencing the Straz Center’s production of Nunsense A-Men?
MM: Honestly, I hope they leave with a smile on their face, a song in their heart and a pain in their sides from having laughed so much. Does that sound corny? I feel like most theatres now try to outdo each other as to whose show is more of a drag. And I don’t mean a man in a nun’s habit!! The world is bleak enough. Just turn on the news or log in to social media. The Little Sisters of Hoboken are Habit Forming! They love each other and they love to entertain. If we do our job right, the audience can and will feel that love night after night.