Every church has them: Church Basement Ladies. Even if there’s no basement, the image of these selfless kitchen volunteers is easily recognized. They bake and organize the food and keep the church community together through thick and thin. If they’ve been unsung heroes until now, that is about to change as Great Bend Community Theatre presents “Church Basement Ladies,” a musical, Nov. 14-17 at the Barton Community College Fine Arts Auditorium.
The musical is set in a rural Minnesota church. From the elderly matriarch of the kitchen to the young bride-to-be learning the proper order of things, the show provides a touching, funny look at their lives as they handle a record-breaking Christmas dinner, the funeral of a dear friend, a Hawaiian Easter fundraiser and 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.
Stage Manager Karen Kline-Martin said the cast and the team of directors have been great to work with.
“We are incredibly fortunate and grateful to have Vern Fryberger (Musical Director) and Laura Klima-Fehr (Choreographer). They take the show and put it over the top, truly,” she said. “The energy the cast brings each and every night is contagious. I can only imagine the energy they will take to performances and how audiences will respond. They will have a blast.”
The show is taking place in the Fine Arts Auditorium at Barton Community College, 245 NE 30 Road, while construction is ongoing at the Crest Theatre, GBCT’s normal location, for installation of a new HVAC system.
“The college has been incredibly generous in allowing us to be there. We have access to a terrific stage,” said Kline-Martin. Leon Sobba at Barton has helped with the sound and lighting there. “We’ve been made to feel very much at home and we are incredibly grateful for the hospitality they are showing GBCT.”
Until last week, rehearsals were taking place at the former Hallmark store at 1305 Main in Great Bend. American State Bank made that building available, Kline-Martin said. “We taped out our stage here so we had something to go by, she said. On Friday, GBCT volunteers were able to start moving their set and props to the college stage.
The cast includes Ruth Van Pelt, Karen Reddig, Carol Beck, Ashley McHenry and Matt Mazouch. Karen Gore designed the set. Luke Abbott and Jacob Disque will assist with lights and sound, Karen Neuforth will serve as stage manager and Bonnie LeRoy served as assistant director.
Kline-Martin said she hopes the community will take advantage of this chance to see GBCT present a musical for the first time in many years. The last musical was "Grease," back in 2000 or 2001.
“I am thrilled that GBCT is doing a musical. We hope to look to diversify what we are offering our audiences, and starting the season with a musical is the best way,” said Kline-Martin. The diversification will continue in February when GBCT presents “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
The show has been produced with the assistance of underwriters American State Bank, Community Bank, Farmers Bank and Trust, First State Bank, Central National Bank, and Brad and Sarah Shirer.