“Church Basement Ladies” – Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ September 6, 2010


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
Mesa, AZ

“Church Basement Ladies,” Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre’s new musical, takes an irreverent comical look at those dedicated and talented women who spend hours in church kitchens conceiving endless inexpensive meals for often unappreciative parishioners. While it’s riddled with clichéd humor, expected jabs and anticipated jibes, “Church Basement Ladies” offers pleasant diversion because an able cast of comediennes turn and twist the silly jokes and add much visual humor to make the show’s jokes funnier than they are.

Set in a small, rural Minnesota town in the ‘60s, “Church Basement Ladies” tells about four women who deplore big city changes and hate even subtle introductions of new ideas. The show’s score isn’t much and often sidetracks minimally funny bits of humor with forgettable tunes that add nothing. The book should be brighter, funnier, and take better advantage of the musical’s concept.

The ensemble of four kitchen-dedicated women and the Lutheran minister totally miss what should be hysterical Minnesota accents and the humorous possibilities of that distinctive speech. And for the first time in its 10 year history, Broadway Palm uses recorded music, something that hopefully won’t become regular. Even with these negatives, there’s no denying that “Church Basement Ladies” brings lots of chuckles and some genuine guffaws.

While the ensemble doesn’t sing the uninspired songs with any flourish, they pass muster and Kelly Karcher, as the group’s youngest member, Signe, sounds best. The other three women use polished comic acumen to compensate for their vocal weaknesses. Angela Dirksen’s Mavis runs away with the show. The hefty performer uses her girth to full comic effect and she has no inhibitions on what she will do to make audiences laugh. Her machinations to get off high places will delight and she uses her heft to open doors and lift massive quantities of raw and prepared foods that result in nonstop laughter. Kay Francis’ Vivian is a dowdy hoot as the longtime kitchen captain who is a widow afraid of change and modern ideas. Jessica Unice plays Karin, with stalwart determination as a middle-aged lady who cautiously views new ideas. Edwin Hanson does nothing special with the hovering pastor but he is really just a tool to spark the women’s comedy.

Thank goodness for the women’s ability to sell the show’s mundane humor because Curt Wollan’s staging is nothing unique and is boringly repetitious.

“Church Basement Ladies” isn’t anything special but it does provide its share of laughs because of some fine comedy performances. It continues to September 25. For tickets, call the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre box office at 480-325-6700 or order tickets online at www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

Grade: C