You don't have to be Catholic to enjoy "Nunsense Jamboree," which opens Friday at Macon Little Theatre. But it might help if you are a fan of the old television variety show "Hee Haw."
The country-western musical is presented as a promotional tour for Sister Amnesia's newly released album, "I Could've Gone to Nashville." The sister regains her memory to realize she is actually Sister Mary Paul, a former country singer. With the blessing of the Reverend Mother, she lands a recording contract and begins a national tour with a colorful troupe of characters.
"There'll be toe tapping and knee slapping from the audience," said director Sylvia Haynie, who also will be playing keyboard on stage with a five-piece country band. "It's set up as a concert-styled with a little holy rollin'."
The musical is more of a variety show and includes puppets, clogging, blacklight baton twirling and an interactive auction as the four nuns and one priest endeavor to raise money for their tour. It's the second sequel to the original musical comedy "Nunsense" that debuted in 1985 and became the second-longest-running off-Broadway show of all time.
Sister Amnesia is played by Kim Cooper, and Angie Freeman plays Sister Robert Anne.
"I'm really excited to have Angie Freeman and Kim Cooper back on stage together," said music director and percussionist Laura Voss. "They are both amazing singers and performers and they had a huge following in the community when they performed 'Always, Patsy Cline.' "
Cooper says all five characters are dramatically different and each is equally important.
"We've just embraced our characters," she said. "Each person that we've chosen for each part, in my opinion, is just perfect."
Liz Jarvis Fabian plays Sister Mary Wilhelm, the tour manager who tries in vain to bring order to the chaos. Howard High School senior Sophie Leicht plays Sister Mary Leo, who is just setting out as a nun. Sister Mary Leo's brother is Father Virgil Manly Trott, played by Lee Mangum.
"Angie and I are best friends and we just love doing theater together," Cooper said. "But with this particular show -- with Liz and Sophie and Lee -- the five of us have just molded together and have formed a very tight bond."
Audiences don't have to have seen the first "Nunsense" to follow the story, but those who have will hear references just for them.
Similarly, Catholics in the audience may get some of the more subtle jokes.
"It in no way makes fun of a religion," Haynie said. "In fact, people who were raised in Catholic schools or in the church will appreciate the humor and will get things that other audience members won't understand."
References like commercials for Ascension Airlines and the Manger Inn.
Country music lovers might catch the nod to Patsy Cline in a tribute song that strings together 43 of the artist's song titles, and "Can't get a Man, You're a Nun," a reference to Annie Oakley's "Can't Get a Man with a Gun."
"It's just spontaneous, crazy stuff," Cooper said. "It just keeps you saying, 'Well, what in the world is coming up next?' Sit back, relax and just enjoy yourself watching those four crazy nuns on the stage."
When: 8 p.m. March 18-19, 23-26; 2:30 p.m. March 20 and 27
Where: Macon Little Theatre, 4220 Forsyth Road
Cost: $20 adults, $15 seniors (60+), $10 students (ages 5-23)
Information: 478-471-7529; www.maconlittletheatre.org