A celebration of the church basement kitchen and the women who work there, Church Basement Ladies, is a new musical comedy opening May 20, 2011 at the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater. Directed by John LaLonde with music direction by Ronda Rubio, the cast includes Beth Mendoza as Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson “Mavis”, Diane David as Mrs. Lars Snustad “Vivian”, Lisa Dyson as Mrs. Elroy Engelson “Karin”, Ashley Green as Miss Signe Engelson and Carey Curtis Smith as Pastor E.L. Gunderson.
“The show features four distinct characters and their relationships as they organize the food and solve the problems of a rural Minnesota church about to undergo changes in the 1960s. From the elderly matriarch of the kitchen to the young bride-to-be learning the proper order of things, we see them handle a record breaking Christmas dinner, the funeral of a dear friend, a Hawaiian Easter Fund Raiser, and, of course, a steaming hot July wedding. They stave off potential disasters, share and debate recipes, instruct the young, and keep the Pastor on due course while thoroughly enjoying, (and tolerating) each other as the true “steel magnolias” of the church.”
“In 1998, Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson collaborated on an autobiography of their own lives. The novel focused on their Scandinavian backgrounds and their time spent growing up in a LutheranChurch. Growing Up Lutheran, What Does This Mean? became a hit in the mid-west and won the MinnesotaBook Award for Humor for 1998.
“The humorous nature and success of the book led to a collaboration with the authors and Troupe America Inc., a mid-west production company. This partnership led to the creation of Church Basement Ladies. Curt Wollan (of Troupe America) contacted Martin and Nelson and proposed that they create a musical comedy based on their book. Martin and Nelson were intrigued by the idea and decided to go ahead with the project.
Wollan then hired husband and wife team–Jim Stowell and Jessica Zeuhlke who then collaborated with singer/songwriter Drew Jansen. At the time, Jansen was well-known for his creation of the music for How to Talk MinnesotanThe Musical which had also been directed by Wollan.
The show ultimately focuses on the quirky nature of these women who run the church kitchen preparing meals for special events and holidays, all the while keeping the pastor on track and dealing with their own personal issues.
Church Basement Ladies opens May 20 and performs Thursday through Sunday through June 19. Regular ticket prices range from $48-$68 and include both dinner and show. Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more at even lower rates. Call 909-626-1254, ext 1 or visit www.thecpdt.com.
Candlelight Pavilion is located at 455 W. Foothill Blvd.in Claremont.
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