Theatre Review: ‘Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class’ by Rocking Horse Productions at The Meeting House

Sydney Perkins is Sister Robert Anne in “Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class.”

Rocking Horse Productions has recently moved to the charming Williamsville Meeting House for a season of Theatre in the Village. I attended the opening performance of Dan Goggin’s Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class: A One Nun-sense Musical Event. The Rocking Horse season will continue in March with the musical revue Forever Plaid.

Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class is one of ten popular Nunsense musical shows which include a Christmas show, a country western show, a Hollywood show, and even Meshuganuns – an all faith show! This time around Sister Robert Anne has broken away from the other nuns for an evening to teach a class in how to create your own cabaret act. The many songs in this one woman show are a collection from the rest of the Nunsense series.

. . . a crowd pleaser and got a well deserved standing ovation from the enthusiastic opening night audience.

Sister Robert Anne is one tough cookie! She was born on the wrong side of Brooklyn and raised in a jazz club. Taking the veil hasn’t changed her a bit. She’s feisty, out spoken, and full of pep. The vivacious Ms. Sydnie Perkins plays the role in this production and she’s a powerhouse! Miss Perkins is full of energy – singing, dancing, working a puppet, getting a lot of milage out of her feather boas, and hobnobbing with the audience. She’s a keg of dynamite and her sparkly performance will put a smile on your face. She bounces through the novelty numbers and is very effective with the ballads.

Musical highlights of the production are “What Would Elvis Do” in which Sister is backed up on stage by a chorus line of audience volunteers and the ballad “I Left Him There” which is delivered with great heart by Ms. Perkins.  

John Szablewski is both the Musical Director and the jovial Father John who, in addition to providing spritely and steady piano accompaniment, is the evening’s unofficial MC. We all enjoyed his reactions to the proceedings, his little touches (including the funny glasses), and his occasional humorous ad libbing with Sister Robert Anne.

Direction is by Leigha Marie Eichhorn and choreography is by Mary Loliger. It’s hard to know who did what because the production is practically all musical, but Ms. Eichhorn and Ms. Loliger have put together a seamless and happy romp with lots of variety and never a dull moment.

The classroom set with desk, chalkboard, and St. Anthony is by Chuck Ziehl and costumes (including Sister’s sequined black sneakers – a fun touch) are by Janet Ziehl. Producer Douglas H. Kern has found a lovely new home for his theatre company and aptly selected a season of small scale shows to present in this pleasant, intimate setting. One word of advice for future audience members – bring a seat cushion with you.

There’s a lot of audience interaction in this show! When the house lights come up, be prepared to dance and sing with Sister. And, here’s a tip — if you volunteer to participate in the show, Sister Robert Anne might give you a prize. I got the key to heaven which, you have to admit, is a pretty darn cool thing to have!

The theme of the show is “every day of the week is a Saturday when you’re doing what you choose.” It was clear that both Ms. Perkins and Mr. Szablewski are happily doing what they chose and equally clear that the audience wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else. Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret is a crowd pleaser and got a well deserved standing ovation from the enthusiastic opening night audience.

Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class runs 90 minutes including one intermission. 

Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class runs until November 18, 2019. Click here for tickets.

Rocking Horse Productions Celebrates Eleventh Season

For the last eleven seasons, Rocking Horse Productions has been a staple at the Lancaster Opera House. A company that prides itself on casting new and veteran talent, Rocking Horse Productions has been responsible for the start of many theatrical careers in the Buffalo area. A producer of great theatrical content, Rocking Horse celebrates their 2017 – 2018 season by kicking it off with “9 to 5 The Musical.”

“We are excited to be producing this show,” says Douglas Kern, executive producer of Rocking Horse Productions, “it is fun, upbeat, and it is going to speak to many generations.”

“9 to 5 The Musical” is based on the 1980 film, which starred Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton. A tale of a group of women who are tired of being mistreated by their chauvinistic boss, take matters into their own hands to prove their worth in the workplace. This musical adaptation follows the same plot as the film, and includes a brand new score by Dolly Parton.

“I was a fan of the movie, and I was really excited when Doug asked me to direct this show,” says Leigha Eichhorn who is at the helm of this production, “it’s a fun show that still speaks a current message about equality, and about women who are trying to succeed in the business world.”

This show, which has gone through a transition from its 2009 Broadway run, has songs written by country music legend Dolly Parton, but that should not deter theatergoers who might not be fans of country music. “These songs aren’t your typical sappy country western songs,” says Eichborn, “they keep a positive message.”

In a world where Hollywood film adaptations grace the stage all too often as of late, Eichhorn says that if you are a fan of the movie, you will love this show. “The cast is fantastic and is really bringing the vision to life. The audience will not be disappointed.”

Rocking Horse also is producing the Christmas classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” this December. “We are happy to bring this full version of the show to the stage,” says Kern.

This show is under the direction of Jane Navarro, who directed Rocking Horse’s successful run of “A Few Good Men” last season. “It’s A Wonderful Life,’ is a great Christmas tradition, says Navarro, “I am happy to be working with new talent as well as with people I have worked with in the past.”

Navarro says that she is excited to be working with a cast that will reach over thirty people. “Everyone is going to bring something unique to this show that is going to make it very special.”

Navarro says that there is a certain expectation that theatergoers have when going to see a show that is so familiar to them. “You have to toe a fine line between giving the people what they are familiar with, and bringing your own unique twist to the material. ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets it’s wings,’ has to be there, or the audience will be let down.”

Eichhorn and Navarro direct shows later this season as well.  Eichhorn’s next project is “Charlotte’s Web.” “We have never done a show geared toward children before,” says Kern, “so we were honored to be asked by the executive director of the Lancaster Opera House to do so.”

Navarro directs Rocking Horse’s first dinner theatre production, “Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class,” one of the sequels to the successful “Nunsense” shows, written by Dan Goggin.

“9 to 5 The Musical” opens on September 8, 2017 at the Lancaster Opera House.

“It’s A Wonderful Life” runs December 1 – 10, 2017 at the Lancaster Opera House

“Charlotte’s Web” runs March 23- 25, 2018 at the Lancaster Opera House

“Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class” runs January 26 – February 4, 2018 at Ripa’s Restaurant.

For tickets and more information, click here.