Reviews: “Nuncrackers” & “Polar Bears” in Ross and San Rafael

For Marin audiences seeking some live holiday-themed entertainment, local theatre companies are presenting a couple of non-traditional seasonal shows. Audiences can choose between an ecclesiastical musical and a one-man holiday reminiscence.

In 1985, writer/composer Dan Goggin adapted his line of greeting cards that featured nuns saying outrageous things into a cabaret show and then an off-Broadway musical. That show, Nunsense, told the tale of the Little Sisters of Hoboken putting on a variety show to raise funds to bury the last of 52 nuns accidentally poisoned by the convent cook. That basic plot has sustained the Nunsense franchise over six sequels and three spinoffs.   

Sophie de Morelos as Sr. Robert Anne, Sarah Hotchkiss as Sr. Mary Hubert, Megan Bartschat as Sr. Mary Paul

The College of Marin is presenting Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical, the holiday version of the popular franchise. This time the Sisters are broadcasting from a TV studio in the basement of the convent where they host a cable-access show to raise funds for the Mount St. Helen’s School. Under the imperious guidance of Sister Mary Regina (director Lisa Morse) and the assistance of Father Virgil Manly Trott (Izaak Heath), the Sisters and their parochial school students will sing, dance, tell groan-inducing jokes, and perform a habit and tutu-clad version of The Nutcracker.  

It’s a silly piece of holiday fluff, performed earnestly by the (mostly) youthful cast. The music, performed by a four-piece combo under the direction of Debra Chambliss, often overwhelms the small Studio Theatre space. This plus the lack of audio amplification for the actors makes the lyrics often difficult to understand.  

Speaking of understandings, it wouldn’t hurt to have an understanding of the tenets of Catholicism to better appreciate the show’s humor, but if you’ve seen Sister Act, you’re good to go. 

‘Nuncrackers’ runs through Dec. 9 at the College of Marin Studio Theatre, 835 College Ave., Kentfield. Thursday–Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2pm. $15–$30. 415.485.9385. pa.marin.edu.

Photos by Robin Jackson

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The Belrose in San Rafael is hosting David Templeton’s Polar Bears. It’s an autobiographical piece that, while ostensibly about his attempts to keep his children’s belief in Santa Claus alive as long as possible, is really about the lengths a father will go to keep his children happy. 

David (played by Chris Schloemp) never thought he wanted children, but once they arrived, he was all-in. His belief in Santa Claus obliterated at the tender age of four, he’s intent on seeing his children’s belief maintained until a reasonable age.  He devised a long set of Christmas rules to accomplish this that became increasingly difficult and complex as his marriage ended, his ex-wife succumbed to cancer and his children grew older.

Not as somber as that sounds, it’s actually a rather sweet and humorous tale told well by Schloemp in a tight 85 minutes. 

‘Polar Bears’ runs through Dec. 15 at the Belrose, 1415 Fifth Ave., San Rafael. Friday–Saturday, 7:30pm; $20–$25. 707.338.6013. thebelrose.com.

There is one performance on Sunday, Dec. 23 at 7:00 pm at Left Edge Theatre, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $25–$40. 707-546-3600. leftedgetheatre.com

Photos by David Templeton

These reviews originally ran in edited versions in the Pacific Sun.

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