Mike Woody reviews 'The Church Basement Ladies', now at La Comedia Dinner Theatre through April 18.
There’s a hunger for live theatre all across the country as it’s a treasure that society has been deprived of for over a year. People are starving for musical productions (also for sweet potato soufflé) and The Church Basement Ladies are ready to fill audiences with a healthy serving of theatrical entertainment at La Comedia. The kitchen crew from a Lutheran Church in Minnesota not only prepares an assortment of heavily buttered dishes, but mainly lots of laughs and some endearing songs too.
I must confess, though the Lutherans wouldn’t approve of the Catholic reference, I had grown weary of the Church Basement Ladies. Several sequels had been produced in recent years. They were almost as frequent as governors' press conferences (almost). This is a return to the original and all my reluctancies to enjoy were dropped before the opening number was over. The Church Basement Ladies is the nourishment my soul needed.
It would be hard to imagine anyone ruling the kitchen other than Denise Cox as Vivian Snustad. From her footwear on rainy days to utterance of ‘That’s nice’ and especially her traditional views, she embodies the typical grandma. Cox plays the role so well that in my eyes she is Mrs. Snustad.
A key ingredient in the show's success, that adds a lot of flavor is Claire Sherer as Mavis Gilmerson. Her tongue is as sharp as the knife she often wields uncomfortably close to others. Many laughs come from Sherer’s physical comedy, highlighted by her unique way of opening a stuck door and numerous wardrobe malfunctions. A Church Basement Ladies without Cox and Sherer would be like an omelet without eggs or water. It just wouldn’t work.
The next generation of the kitchen crew is represented by Cheryl Salzman as Karin Engelson. She’s the mother of the teenaged Beverly, played by Hannah Brown. Both women provide support in numerous ways, including vocally and helping Mavis out of multiple situations of being stuck on top of the freezer.
After a long twelve-plus months in which so many parts of life have been off-kilter, few things represent normalcy more than seeing Chris Kramer back on stage. I’ve yet to get my vaccine, but seeing Kramer perform makes me feel better already. Kramer returns to his role as Pastor Gunderson. The spirited pastor is kept on his toes by the Ladies.
‘The Church Basement Ladies’ is sure to provide plenty of laughs and most importantly fill your appetite for musical theatre. “That is most certainly true,” as they would say themselves. The show continues through April 18.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.