Christmas celebration

Westfield Playhouse’s ‘Nuncrackers’ shares the spirit of the holidays, gifts and joy of being alive

Westfield resident Rachael Whitlock performed her first solo in preschool and was hooked.

“From then on I was singing and sang all through college (Purdue University),” she said.

Whitlock performed with her daughter, Della, in “A Christmas Carol” at the Studio Theater in 2011. Westfield Playhouse’s production of “Nuncrackers” gives her a chance to share the stage with Della and her other daughter, Marlee.

“I’ve been performing for 30 years now and it’s nice to see it go to my children and see them share the love for the stage,” she said. “It’s special.”

Spending time with their family and friends makes this performance unique for the family.

“I’m having fun with my friends and all the people that do it,” Marlee said.

“The theater community is a family here in Westfield. You’re surrounded by people that love and care for you and motivate you to move forward,” Whitlock said.

Each member of the Whitlock family has their own favorite part of the show: from the rousing opening number, “Christmas Time Is Nunsense Time,” for Della to “when Della puts Baby Jesus down,” Marlee said.

“It’s fun and funny with off-the-wall humor,” Whitlock said. “I got my best friend (Melissa Puckett) in it too. It’s nice to spend time with her.”

Set designer John Sampson said families like the Whitlocks and Barrows (who have three members in the cast and crew) make Westfield Playhouse a “true community theater.”

“We’re a family-oriented theater, when the families come to do it it’s even better,” he said.

Westfield Playhouse performed the original “Nunsense” production in 2005. At that end of that show, Sister Amnesia won Publishers Clearing House. “Nuncrackers” starts with a short recap about how the nuns used the money to build a TV station in the convent basement.

“There’s lots of trouble going on in and around the first Christmas special taped. Everywhere you look there is trouble,” Bobbi Van Howe said.

Van Howe is the only member of the original “Nunsense” cast that reprised her role as Rev. Mother Sister Mary Regina.

“A couple left town and another member is getting married and was too busy,” she said.

As part of the play selection committee, Van Howe said resurrecting the original characters was enticing.

“It’s just like going home. I fit right in as Mother Superior,” she said. “It’s a fun show. I’ll always do anything connected to ‘Nunsense.’ We do so many fun things – sing, dance, make jokes and just be silly.”

“Nuncrackers” stars the “Nunsense” cast plus Father Virgil and some of Mt. Saint Helen’s most talented students. It features all new songs including “Twelve Days Prior to Christmas,” “Santa Ain’t Comin’ To Our House,” “We Three Kings of Orient Are Us,” and “It’s Better to Give Than To Receive.” This show is filled with “Nunsense” humor, some of your favorite carols, a “Secret Santa,” and an uproarious take on Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet.

“It pulls together the religious and secular, but it’s fun too,” director Kate Hinman said. “There’s lots of joy in this show. The cast is starting to have fun and you can see it.”

Hinman said the show contains some serious songs about the painful things the nuns have had to overcome.

“It’s a very upbeat, positive show,” she said.

While “Nuncrackers” is the Christmas-themed show in the “Nunsense” series, it is a departure from traditional holiday shows.

“It shows what Westfield Playhouse has done and how we try to bring unique entertainment. We’re starting to do a mixture of things,” she said. “I want the audience to feel happiness and joy because the holiday season is extremely stressful. Come in, relax, enjoy themselves, have a good time and walk out less stressed.”

Nuncrackers

Where: Westfield Playhouse, 1836 Ind. 32 W.

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29 and 30 and Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14; and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and 15.

Cast: Debbie Coon (Amnesia/Sister Mary Paul), Isabella Doss (Maria, Clara), Melissa Puckett (Sister Mary Hubert), Kevin Shadle (Father Virgil), Bobbi Van Howe (Rev. Mother Sister Mary Regina), Della Whitlock (Louise, Mouse King), Rachael Whitlock (Sister Robert Anne), Marlee Whitlock (Ruth, Mouse, Fritz) and Melody Barrows (Joan, Nutcracker).

Staff: Kate Hinman, director; Bobbi Van Howe, producer; Jan Jamison, choreographer; Marissa Barrows, sound; Melody Barrows, stage manager; Misty Barrows, lights; and John Sampson, set design.

Tickets: $15 for adults, $13 for seniors

Reservations: 896-2707