OSCODA — The near freezing temps did not keep locals away from opening night of Nunsense at the Shoreline Players Theater.
“My parking lot is full,” President Sue Miller said enthusiastically as she rushed around before the performance. In fact, the parking lot was so full that people were searching for places to park. The lobby had a line of patrons waiting to pick up or purchase their tickets. The show was delayed for a few minutes opening night so that everyone could get to their seats, but no one seemed to mind.
Nunsense begins with local musician Amy Merrick, dressed as a nun, playing a variety of songs on the piano. For those who don’t know the plot, they might be a little confused by the stage that is set for a performance of Grease. The nuns are using the stage set for an eighth-grade play.
As the performance progresses, we learn more about the history of the order and each of the nuns. They tell us about their aspirations and their talents, whether real or perceived.
The audience, some of whom remember when the play was originally performed Off Broadway, and some of whom weren’t yet born in 1985, clearly enjoyed themselves. The Shoreline Players version of the performance is nicely updated so younger generations won’t get lost in the original dialogue from 1985.
Having nearly 100 people in the audience created a level of energy that brought the theater back to its pre COVID lockdown state.
The cast includes Emily Peters as ballet-loving Sister Mary Leo, Leslea Witter as Sister Robert Anne, Nicole Markey as Sister Mary Amnesia, Cher Nentwig as Mother Superior Sister Regina and Rebecca Collier as Sister Mary Hubert.
Hilarity ensues as the nuns work together to stage a talent show to raise funds to bury four members of their convent.
Audience participation is encouraged and expected as the attendees are the audience for the fundraiser.
The cast embraced their roles from seating audience members before the show through thanking everyone in the lobby as they left.
While the cast included members with a variety of acting experience and singing talent, slight stumbles were easy to forgive with such obvious enthusiasm for the performance.
Collier, Nentwig and Peters all work at Kalitta Air. Markey is a “fulltime momma,” Witter and understudy Linda Ramsdell are both retired.
Collier’s performance, especially her singing that filled the auditorium, stood out. It is particularly impressive given that she missed two weeks of rehearsals due to her child becoming ill and needing to be rushed to a hospital in Grand Rapids.
Collier talked about what having an enthusiastic audience means to the performers.
“There’s something that happens inside of you. You want to do so much more for them,” she said excitedly.
This was the first local performance for Peters who moved to Oscoda with her husband in 2021. She described the experience as “terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.” Collier, a co-worker, knew Peters liked acting and talked her into it.
“It’s a really good community. A really fun way to be creative, express yourself. They made sure I had everything I needed,” Peters added.
Witter has been with the theater for 20 years in a variety of capacities with her first role as the mother in Steel Magnolias. However, it was the first time she had performed in a musical. Witter said the cast was really “fired up” when they saw the audience on opening night.
The Shoreline Players production is directed by Renee Diener working with musical director and pianist Amy Merrick, producer Sue Miller and assistant producer Chelsea Miller.
Eric Joseph, dressed as a Catholic priest, is the technical director, lighting designer and sound designer. Sue Miller is the stage manager and the stage crew includes Diener, Chelsea Miller, Patrick Boje and Alex Markey.
The tech crew includes Matt Cleary, Paul Grabstanowicz and Owen Markey. Diener and Joseph designed the set and constructed it with Sue and Chelsea Miller. Set painting by Diener and the Millers.
The cast board, poster, program and insert were created by Lisa Mandeville. The concession stand is staffed by Tammie Miller, Rose Wilson and Eric Koppen.
Performances for the upcoming weekend are scheduled for Friday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online at www.shorelineplayers.org or at the box office prior to performances.
The theater recently moved to an online purchase system that accepts credit card payments. The system resulted in a number of pre-sale tickets and even some online donations. The theater is a 501c3 IRS designated organization, donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Plan on approximately 2 1/2 hours for the performance including the intermission and be aware that there is some adult humor.
Refreshments are available at the performance. In addition to the usual freshly popped popcorn, Oscoda High School students will be on hand at all of the shows selling freshly baked goods. The bake sale benefits the band students who are planning a trip to New York City in the spring to see a Broadway show and perform at the Statue of Liberty.
The upcoming 2022-2023 season is the theater’s 50th. A celebration is being planned, details are still being worked out.
Upcoming events at the theater include the 14th Annual Community Christmas Friday Dec. 16 and Saturday Dec. 17. Admission is free, but seats can be selected online.
On Sunday, Dec. 18, the Special Olympics Talent Show, is also free to the public.
Upcoming performances include Everybody Loves Opal and Gaslight. Miller said the play reading committee chose performances for this season that people would recognize and enjoy.
Auditions for Everybody Loves Opal are being held on Jan. 12, 13 and 14 at 5 p.m. with performances scheduled for March.
Performances take place at the Shoreline Theater located at 6000 Skeel Avenue in the Wurtsmith District.
Nunsense was the second longest running Off Broadway play with 3,672 performances starting on Dec. 12, 1985.
The concept originated as a line of greeting cards, then evolved into a cabaret show and was developed into a full-length Off Broadway play.