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Men In The Parish Basement? What’s A Church Lady To Do?
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Greg Doering, Kansas Farm Bureau

McPHERSON — “Rise Up O Men” gives the gents a chance to shine in the latest installment of the Church Basement Ladies musical comedy series. Let’s hear it for the boys! Fans of the musical comedy series Church Basement Ladies will finally get to know more about the men of East Cornucopia Lutheran Church in the new production “Rise Up O Men!” at the McPherson Opera House with shows at 2 and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17.

This sidesplitting, uplifting peek into the lives of the rural Norwegian Lutherans who audiences first fell in love with in 2005 is the sixth chapter of the story begun in the original Church Basement Ladies. “Rise Up O Men” features familiar faces: Mrs. Mavis Gilmerson, Mrs. Vivian Snustad, and Mrs. Karin Engleson who would never leave the basement kitchen unattended, of course (who would make bars for the youth group meeting?). But as they busy themselves with preparations for their church’s participation in the town’s 1964 Centennial Celebration, we get to see their coming and goings from the eyes of the menfolk, who have their own problems to solve. Karin’s husband Elroy, farmer Carl and Great War vet Arlo are joined in brotherhood by series staple Pastor E.L. Gunderson. Their camaraderie unites them as they deal with furnace salesmen, looming retirement, rival Protestant denominations, the Pastor’s bad jokes, and Arlene’s even-worse cooking.

“We’re ready to introduce some new faces to the many fans who’ve become part of the Church Basement Ladies family over the years,” said Troupe America’s Curt Wollan, who has produced all six of the shows. “We’ve also got a lineup of original musical numbers that we’ve caught our preview audiences humming on the way out of the theatre—between the belly laughs and the songs, Rise Up O Men is an exciting addition to the Church Basement Ladies canon.”

The series of Church Basement Ladies productions are inspired by the bestselling book Growing Up Lutheran by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson. This latest chapter in the lives of these rural Minnesota Norwegians was developed by Greta Grosch, who wrote the scripts for the second, third, fourth, and fifth musicals in the series. Longtime Minneapolis StarTribune theatre critic Graydon Royce contributed additional material. Composer and songwriter Dennis Curley wrote the music, with lyrics by Dennis Curley and Greta Grosch. Originally produced by Troupe America Inc, the original musical comedy, “The Church Basement Ladies,” opened at the Plymouth Playhouse in Minneapolis September 2005 to a response so enthusiastic that its initial run lasted two-and-a half years. Five sequels have expanded the universe of these familiar and beloved “Steel Magnolias of the Prairie,” making The Church Basement Ladies the most successful show in Troupe America’s 30-year history.

“The Opera House is so excited to be presenting a show in the Church Basement Ladies series for the second time,” said Opera House Business Director Diane Fallis. “The first Church Basement Ladies production performed at the Opera House was a couple of years ago – the Christmas themed program ‘Away in the Basement’ – and it was hilarious. It doesn’t matter what denomination you are; every church has these characters. The show is a guaranteed good time.”

Ticket prices range from $25-$35, plus a $4 preservation fee. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.mcphersonoperahouse.org, call 620-241-1952, or visit the box office at 219 S. Main Street, McPherson. A discounted group rate of 10 or more is available by calling the box office.