Play starts March 8 and continues through March 25 at Temple Theatre.
Authors/humorists Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson, creators of the best-selling book “Growing Up Lutheran” and a host of other humorous writings, joined forces with Twin Cities-based production company Troupe America Inc. and its executive producer, Curt Wollan, to turn their material into the musical comedy, “Church Basement Ladies.”
It was a love affair in the making originally inspired by a conversation with Mr. Wollan’s in-laws suggesting that he talk with Ms. Martin and Ms. Nelson about the idea of turning their material into a musical comedy. Mr. Wollan wanted to create a show that celebrated the women who work so hard with such dedication in the church kitchen whether they be Lutheran, Methodist, Jewish or Catholic.
Mr. Wollan explained, “I know about these ‘Steel Magnolias’ of the church, because my mother was one of them while I was growing up.” Intrigued by the idea, Ms. Martin and Ms. Nelson agreed to meet.
Mr. Wollan commissioned creative writing team Jim Stowell, one of Minnesota’s favorite storytellers, and Jessica Zuehlke, a performance arts educator and also the daughter of a real-life church basement lady, to develop the book. This duo collaborated with composer/songwriter Drew Jansen, well known for his creation of the music for the hit musical, “How To Talk Minnesotan: The Musical.”
The result was a delightful musical comedy that has been playing to sellout crowds all over the country for years. The church basement kitchen throughout much of America is often the heart and soul of any church. In “Church Basement Ladies,” you will meet the pastor, three main kitchen cooks and one daughter who run the kitchen and care for the congregation by preparing and serving the food. And just like any great kitchen, problems are solved here, as well.
We see the four women handle a Lutefisk Dinner, a funeral, an Easter fundraiser, and, of course, a wedding. They stave off potential disasters, have fun, share and debate recipes, instruct the young and keep the pastor on due course. This musical comedy based on recipes, food and change in the church is funny, heartwarming and down to earth. It will bring back memories of many people you know from churches everywhere.
“Church Basement Ladies” is directed by the Temple Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Peggy Taphorn, who also stars in the show, alongside Temple vets Shirley Proctor (“Always a Bridesmaid”), Jeanne Koonce (“Anything Goes”), Kathy Day (“The Addams Family”), Theresa McGuirk (“Doubt”) and Gus Allen (“Doubt”).
Ms. Taphorn said, “Temple audiences have been asking for ‘Church Basement Ladies’ for years. It’s finally here! We’re so sure it’s going to be a hit, we may — wink, wink — be planning to do one of the sequels next season.”
“Church Basement Ladies” runs at the Temple Theatre from March 8-25. Showtimes in each of those three weeks are Thursdays at 2 p.m., Fridays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. To purchase tickets, call the Temple Box Office at 919-774-4155.