Nuns performing Fiddler on the Roof on a cruise ship? You'd have to be a madman or a genius to think of that meshuggah idea. Nunsense creator and director Dan Goggin is the kooky brain behind the cockamamie concept of, what else, but Meshuggah-Nuns.
The show marks the grand finale of the inaugural season of Double Chai Theatrical Series at the new Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, which Goggin tells us is "gorgeous." He said, "Everything about it state of the art."
This is the first time this musical will be performed in Miami, and, fortunately, by the world premiere cast from New York. Goggin wants you to know that if you've never seen Nunsense, that's ok, you'll get it.
We spoke with him about the hilarious show and also his favorite baseball-nun related Catholic school memory.
Cultist: Where'd you come up with the idea for the new show Meshuggah-Nuns?
Dan Goggin: You know, it was very funny, we were doing a show at the Hollywood Playhouse in Hollywood, Florida, and the producer there said to me, he said, "You know if you really want to sell in Florida, you need to have a Jewish character in your show." So, I thought, "Oh, alright, maybe that's an idea."
The only thing I've never been able to explain to anybody is where the ideas come from. It's kind of like I'm walking down the street, and they just fall into my head. And I thought, what if, what if we had the nuns on a cruise ship and the show was supposed to be Fiddler on the Roof but everybody got seasick except the Tevye and they have to put on the show together, and it kind of mixes the Jewish humor and the Catholic humor together and that's how it got started. But it was actually, it begun by a producer in Florida who suggested it!
That's awesome! Are you Jewish?
No, I'm Catholic and I went to Catholic school, but I have tons of Jewish friends who gave me all kinds of advice and the guy who plays Howard, who is the character who was supposed to be Tevye is Jewish, so together we came up with I think a great cross-reference of the humor, and people who've seen the show, it's been out for a couple of years, say it's so wonderful because it really shows when you're laughing together, there's no barriers. Everybody gets along when you're laughing. So that's been really fun for us.
It's interesting too with the audiences because if you have a predominantly Jewish audience, when the Mother Superior says something like "I don't understand that," you can hear them in the audience like, "I'll tell you! I'll tell you!" And when you have a Catholic audience the Jewish director will say something to Mother Superior like, "What are you talking about here?" And they're all ready to say, "We'll tell you! We'll tell you!"
So, it's just been a great feeling to be able to kind of take a situation like this and just really have a fun zany show but also kind of bring people together at the same time. So, it was kind of a little bonus thing to the Nunsense show that it was able to reach so many people and in such kind of a happy fun way.
You went to Catholic school growing up?
I went to Catholic school and actually the nuns in the show are based on nuns who taught me in real life who just happened to be these character who are such funny people. And then of course I've lived in New York for all the years of my working career, so I work around Jewish people all the time, so I've had great experiences from both. It just made it kind of a perfect mix to try and do this show.
Do you have a favorite Catholic school memory you can share with us?
Yeah, I think that the most fun in the Catholic school, we always heard the nuns were so strict and all that, our nuns were hilarious! We really had a good time. Now, I will say, going to school in the '50s in a small town in Michigan, we weren't like juvenile delinquents, we just never got anybody upset, but from going to Catholic school, I think one of my favorite things was sometimes people will say to me, oh, you think just because the nuns are doing something it's funnier than the people in street clothes. I say, it's true. We had all nuns in school and we had one teacher in plain clothes, Ms. Regan, and if she went out to play baseball, people thought that was pretty neat, Ms. Reagan was out playing baseball. But when Sister Rita went out to play baseball in her full nun's habit, time would stop, it would be amazing. And what's really funny is she still writes to me, and she always signs her letters: Sister "Hit 'em Outta the Park" Rita.
Catch the show this Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center (3385 NE 188 Street, Aventura). Performances through May 8. Tickets cost $36. Call 954-462-0222 or visit aventuracenter.org.