The musical comedy "Nunsense" has kept audiences laughing since the Little Sisters of Hoboken made their off-Broadway debut in 1986.
The story revolves around an emergency variety show, which is needed to raise money for the burial of nuns accidentally poisoned by the convent's cook, Sister Julia, Child of God.
Now the Brass Rail Players are bringing "Nunsense: The Mega-Musical Version" to the metro-east for the first time.
"It just builds on the fun of the original, with more songs, dance numbers and characters," said director Lynn Venhaus. "It is entertaining from start to finish. We have outstanding talent."
The show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 1 and 2 p.m. March 2 at Turkey Hill Grange in Belleville.
The grange is the community theater group's new home after nearly four years at Lindenwood University's auditorium.
"We love the space," Venhaus said of the 1937 grange, which provides a more intimate, old-school setting. "The acoustics are wonderful."
The Little Sisters of Hoboken are led by the Reverend Mother, played by Stephanie Rhein. It's a repeat of her performance 25 years ago at Fontbonne College.
Rhein, 58, of Fairview Heights, is a community theater veteran these days, having performed in an estimated 100 plays.
"I'm a speech pathologist, so I really enjoy dialects," she said. "I'm using an Irish accent (for Reverend Mother). It's just an actor's choice. There are some hints here and there that she may be Irish."
Rhein emphasizes that audience members don't have to be Catholic to enjoy "Nunsense" humor. The cast helps them understand terminology and customs.
One challenge for actors is getting used to wearing habits, including wimples and veils that cover their heads, leaving only square openings around their faces.
"It's really one of the easiest shows to get ready for because you don't have to fix your hair," said Sarah Kuhl, 22, of Breese. "And you don't have to wear much makeup."
Kuhl plays Sister Mary Amnesia, who came to the convent with no memory of her past life, except that a crucifix fell on her head.
The grange is serving an optional dinner before the two Saturday performances in its downstairs dining room. The buffet will include grilled chicken breast over rice with peach sauce, green beans almandine, carrots, cranberry sauce, salad, rolls and double chocolate brownies with pecans and ice cream.
Don't worry, Sister Julia will not be involved in meal preparation.
"('Nunsense' is) just so funny," Kuhl said. "There's so many witty lines and jokes that make you laugh. You can see the show five times and still catch something new every time."
At a glance
What: "Nunsense: The Mega-Musical Version"
Who: Brass Rail Players
Where: Turkey Hill Grange, Illinois 15 and Green Mount Road, Belleville
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 1, and 2 p.m. March 2
Admission: $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens 60 and older, military personnel and college and high-school students with identification and $6 for grade-school students
Optional dinner: 6:15 p.m. in downstairs dining room for an additional $11
Sign-language interpretation: First Saturday only
Reservations: Call 618-917-8175 or 618-767-6016 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets: Available at the box office, if not sold out, an hour before show times