Behind the Scenes: Arcadia University Theater’s ‘Messuggah Nuns!’

By schwartzsa | October 15, 2012

New season begins with a musical comedy.

Story by Sarah R. Schwartz ’10 | Photos by Fig Tree Photography

It was just 48 hours before the final tech rehearsal of Messuggah-Nuns!, and Director Mark Wade sat perched in house left, as the cast ran through several musical selections. Though Wade’s arms were half crossed, his right hand cupping his chin, there was very little sign of anxiety. In fact, Wade was stifling chuckles.

Messuggah-Nuns! finds several sisters on an all-expenses-paid cruise. When the entire cast of the cruise liner’s production of Fiddler on the Roof (with the exception of the guy playing Tevye) gets seasick, the ship’s captain asks the sisters and the remaining actor to put on a show. With musical highlights including “Three Shayna Maidels” and “Matzo Man,” Messuggah-Nuns! entertains with its special of variety show stand-up comedy and song. It’s pure fun.

“This is a big change from last year’s theater season,” said Jess Jacob ’14 after calling a five-minute break during the rehearsal. As Lois Allen in Girl Science and as Janet and the Grocery Boy in The Children’s Hour, Jacob helped bring to light sober topics such as teen death and the disastrous effects of slander. She has welcomed the musical’s frenetic energy and humor.

Carrying a heavy copy of the script, which overflows with blocking, directions and cues, Jacob has undergone a change too, from the role of actor to stage manager. “It’s a completely different experience managing a musical, because it isn’t just blocking and stage direction—a lot of their direction is dance driven. There are so many elements involved.” In addition to Wade’s direction, Janet Pilla directed the choreography and Lind Henderson the music.

In rehearsal, it doesn’t take long to see how all of these elements come together. As the seven-person cast runs through “Rock the Boat,” Wade stops them, noting a slight discrepancy in the vocal harmony. Suddenly the dancing ensemble collapses into a huddle center stage to work a few measures with the pianist who is concealed the behind a sheer red stage curtain. After a few moments of tension, a quick giggle fit and a successful search for B sharp, the team expands again, jumping into song, dance and big personalities. Every live moment—each sashay, succinct note and luminous facial expression—is expertly executed to produce the show’s finale.


  • General admission – $15
  • Arcadia students – $5
  • Non-Arcadia students, senior citizens and Arcadia Alumni – $12


  • Oct. 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 at 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 2 p.m.  [/box]