By Anthony J. Machcinski
The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) will conclude its first season on June 15 when area residents will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense.”
‘Nunsense’ revolves around Sister Julia, Child of God, cook for the Little Sisters of Hoboken who accidentally poisons 52 of her fellow sisters. In order to acquire the funds needed for the burials, the remaining sisters decide to perform a variety show.
Directing his second show for W.H.A.T. Joseph Ferriero has high expectations for the company’s rendition.
“I’m really excited for the first performance,” Ferriero said. “I want to see how the audience reacts. I don’t watch the show as it goes on; I want to see the audience. It lets me know what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong and what I need to change.”
Ferriero last directed “Frog Princess” for W.H.A.T., a family-oriented performance in April. As Ferriero started working on “Nunsense,” he quickly realized the two plays would be very different.
“It’s just really a different situation,” Ferriero explained. “Adults get it much faster than kids do in terms of understanding the characters.”
Performing in her debut for W.H.A.T. is Joan Hemphill, who will play Reverend Mother in the musical. While Hemphill is excited about the opportunity, she didn’t expect to be thrust into the spotlight so early.
“I was actually shocked to be honest,” Hemphill explained. “I just wanted a role to get me involved and get my feet wet. I’m taking (the role) on as a challenge to deliver a good performance.”
Explaining what those challenges are, Hemphill said, “It will take me more time to get used to. I have to balance my work and my career, but I’m really dedicated to it. I’m not a natural, but I’m up to the challenge.”
Joining Hemphill on the stage at the Grace United Methodist Church on June 15 will be Paula Reyes, who will play Sister Julia, Child of God. “Nunsense” will be Reyes’ second performance with W.H.A.T. after playing Ursula in the “Frog Princess” performance.
“I’m privileged to be in (‘Nunsense’) with (Ferriero) and the rest of the cast,” Reyes said.
One major difference between “Frog Princess” and “Nunsense” has been the ability of the cast to adapt and learn the play, despite the more complex nature of “Nunsense.”
“This is one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with,” Reyes remarked. “It’s nice because people put on productions in a threeto- four month time frame. We’re doing this in five weeks. (Acting) isn’t their main job. It’s an amazing production.”
Ferriero agreed, saying, “(The cast) is really dedicated. Whether it’s music one night, acting another, choreography another. There are things we’ve done seven times and then we say we’re going to change something with two weeks left because it wasn’t working. The cast has dealt with different curveballs very well.”
For this group, acting simply isn’t something they do just to cure summer bordom, it’s a fierce passion that’s been present in their lives for many years.
“I truly enjoy the arts,” Reyes explained. “It’s important to bring it back to the community in an affordable way.”
Hemphill echoed that idea, saying, “Kearny is a town that has a lot of interest in the arts. The people organizing it are talented and have the experience and know-how. It’s good to have that collaboration.”
Aside from the hard work and dedication that takes place to put the performance together, Hemphill points to another factor that has yielded much satisfaction for her involvement in the production.
“(The best part of the whole experience is) getting to know the music and working with people under good direction and meeting new people,” Hemphill explained.
The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense” on June 15 at 7:30 p.m. and June 16 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Grace United Methodist Church at 380 Kearny Ave. in Kearny. Tickets are available by visiting the company website at whatco.org, by calling the box office at 201-467-8624, or by purchasing them in person a half hour before the show or at 570 Kearny Ave. in Kearny.