William Christopher to Star in Church Basement Ladies


By: Dan Bacalzo, Theatremania Theatre News · Jun 26, 2008  · Chicago

William  Chriostopher
William Christopher in
Church Basement Ladies
William Christopher will star in the new musical comedy, Church Basement Ladies to play North Shore Center for Performing Arts, September 10-27. Curt Wollan will direct.

Set in 1964-65, the show is a funny, heartfelt reflection on the four women who tirelessly prepare the food and solve problems for the congregation at a rural Minnesota church. The "Church Basement Ladies" include the elderly matriarch of the kitchen, a young bride-to-be, a jack-of-all trades farm wife and the best cook in the church. Together, the ladies stave off potential disasters, share and debate recipes, instruct the young, and keep Pastor E. L. Gunderson (Christopher) on due course as they cope with the changing world. The musical is based on the best-selling book Growing Up Lutheran by humorists Janet Letnes and Suzann Nelson. It features a book by Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke, with music and lyrics by Drew Jansen.

The production will also star Margaret Curry as Mrs. Elroy Engelson (Karin), Stella Fasonello as Signe Engelson, Jean Liuzzi as Mrs. Lars Snustad (Vivian), and Karen Pappas as Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis).

By Veronica Rueckert For the State Journal
"They have miracles galore, we have Miracle Whip."

That's the church ladies, on that most primeval of rivalries, Catholics v. Lutherans. And the ladies lay it on as thick as butter on lefse in the musical comedy "Church Basement Ladies" by Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke, which is currently showing at Capitol Theater in Overture Center. The show is billed as "A celebration of the church basement kitchen and the women who work there" and was inspired by the best-selling book, "Growing Up Lutheran."

Bruce G. Bradley on Friday 08/15/2008

If you know the seven different kinds of pickle to serve at a funeral, and the difference between Andersen and Anderson is of vital importance to you, then hurry along to Overture Center and get a big green Jell-O scoop of Church Basement Ladies before it's all gobbled up. You'll be glad you did.

Written by husband-and-wife team Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke, with music and lyrics by Drew Jansen, this frothy little comedy is fairly bursting at the seams with folksy humor and Nordic know-how. The story, centered on four episodes set in the basement of a Lutheran church in Cornucopia, Minn. in 1964, is as slender as the comedy is broad. But the memorable music, wittily engaging lyrics and the sheer blustery bravado of the acting carry the evening along.

Director Curt Wollan has engendered a great sense of camaraderie in his cast. Some pieces of business outstay their welcome, but there are some wonderful laugh-out-loud scenes and several touching moments. It is the sheer joie de vivre of the quartet of Midwestern matrons, however, that really makes the evening so enjoyable.

August 14th, 2008

On Tuesday night, Church Basement Ladies opened in the beautiful Capitol Theater and let me tell you, it was laugh after laugh. The four women who take on the “life” of the basement are as warm and fun as a good Lutheran side dish. Bill Christoper (Father Mulchay on M*A*S*H*) is the charming Pastor Gunderson, who keeps everything rolling with candor and an ease of adding a little fuel for the all ready over cooking kitchen chatter. The combination on stage is like a bouncing ball of eye rolling, knee slapping true Mid-western slapstick musical humor. The soundtrack is filled with down to earth and easy to relate to tunes for people of all creeds. So fear not, those who believe they don’t know these ladies under the “House of God”, they are a lot more realistic than you might imagine. This is most certainly true!