Coffee, hot dish and bitter cold winters. Ah, I think most of us here in Minnesota are familiar with these, whether we’re 80 or 8 years old!
But if you’re also familiar with church potlucks, Christmas pageants and lutefisk dinners, you may have grown up Lutheran, and you have probably heard of the funny and entertaining Church Basement Ladies!
The Church Basement Ladies is a musical comedy that was inspired by the book Growing Up Lutheran, written by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson in 1997. It’s a fun look at what life was like growing up Lutheran in the midwest in the 1960s.
The Church Basement Ladies musical was so successful that seven sequels have been written and performed!
- Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping.
- Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas.
- The Church Basement Ladies in “A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement.”
- The Church Basement Ladies in “The Last (Potluck) Supper.”
- The Church Basement Ladies in “Rise Up, O Men.”
- The Church Basement Ladies in “You Smell Barn.”
The first six opened at the Plymouth Playhouse in Plymouth, and now the seventh, “You Smell Barn,” is playing at the Ames Center in Burnsville. This one was inspired also in part by Martin and Nelson’s new book, Growing Up Rural, You Smell Barn.
I had grown up Lutheran myself here in Minnesota, and had heard great things about these shows, so I was excited when I was invited to attend their current show “You Smell Barn,” review it and give away tickets here on my site!
I invited a friend from church who had actually grown up here in Minnesota in the 1960s and was active in her Lutheran church, and we had a fun time!
The show brings the Church Basement Ladies out of the church basement for the first time, and home to their farms, where they spend their days doing chores, taking care of their families, and interacting with their rural neighbors.
You don’t have to see the first six shows to understand what’s going on – I hadn’t seen them, but I wish I had because I can tell they were a lot of fun! And though the stage and theatre was not the biggest, and the cast was small (several of the actors played several roles), the talent was so incredible, and the singing blew me away. The beginning opened with the theme song “Another Day in Paradise” sung by the Church Basement Ladies, Mavis (Greta Grosch), Vivian (Janet Paone), Karin (Dorian Chalmers), along with Pastor E.L. Gunderson (Tim Drake). It’s the first of many fun songs with dancing and humorous antics.
Some of the funny scenes included the Church Basement Ladies themselves playing the roles of cows being milked on the farm (this was lol funny) and the pastor helping Vivian put her Wonder Bread bags over her shoes to protect them outside (I didn’t even know this was a thing in the 60s).
Though most of the show was light and playful, there were some serious moments, like when a character receives a letter stating that his son is missing in Korea, and when Karin sings about her daughter growing up (“If I Knew Then What I Know Now” had some powerful words).
Overall, my friend and I enjoyed the show. Most of it wasn’t roaringly funny, but it was pleasant and entertaining, and the talent made it enjoyable whether you could relate to being a midwestern Lutheran or not. I liked how it poked fun at the “culture” back then (like when they met a farmer who was – gasp (!) – Catholic, and tried to pretend they weren’t gossiping about him). And the “party line” and the gossip columnist were amusing – wow, how things have changed in the past few decades! The show really made you think you were going back in time – it was so accurate and clever.
Is it kid-friendly?
I’d say the show is rated PG. It’s ideal for older audiences who grew up in the 60s, but it can be enjoyed by younger generations. I think it’s a great opportunity for multi-generational fun, so younger adult family members can experience some of what life was life for their parents and grandparents. I don’t recommend bringing young kids – young kids wouldn’t understand the humor, and there are some adult themes in the show (plus I think the “s” word was said at one point, intended as a funny nickname). I’d say it’s a good, lighthearted show for teens and up.
About the Show:
The beloved Church Basement Ladies are back and getting busy with life outside the kitchen. Introducing “Church Basement Ladies: You Smell Barn,” the seventh installment in the popular Church Basement Ladies series. The show finally answers the burning question: What do Church Basement Ladies do when they’re not in the basement? “You Smell Barn” is open now and runs through February 14, 2019, in a new location —the Ames Center Black Box Theatre in Burnsville, MN.
After the last of the hot dish is served, the coffee pot is emptied, and the JELL-O molds are put away, the steadfast, sturdy Church Basement Ladies head home to their farms, peel off their good girdles and get on with their daily chores. With plenty of crazy antics, loads of fresh laughs, and spanking new original songs, “Church Basement Ladies: You Smell Barn” celebrates rural life in the 1950s and introduces the other lovable folks who inhabit the rural community: Earl, who delivers the mail up and down Rural Route One; Fergus, the hired man; and Tillie, who chronicles the action for the Fish County Weekly. And, at the center of it all are everyone’s favorite Church Basement Ladies: Mavis (Greta Grosch), Vivian (Janet Paone), Karin (Dorian Chalmers), along with Pastor E.L. Gunderson (Tim Drake).
More info and tickets:
The show is playing now through February 14th! Tickets make a great gift!
Show times are:
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays at 1pm
Thursday at 7:30pm (Added show for the Holidays 11/29 – 12/20 and 1/17)
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 3pm and 7:30pm
Sundays at 2pm
Performances added for New Year’s Eve! Monday, Dec. 31 at 1pm and 7:30pm
The show runs approximately two hours and 15 minutes (including at 15 minute intermission).
Ticket prices are: $32 -$42
Buy the books:
Enter to win a family 4-pack of tickets! Tickets are good for an evening show in late December or early January–the winner can look at that date range and pick a night that works for them. Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form below by Monday, December 17th at 11:00pm. Good luck!
(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no cost to you, and I was provided with complimentary tickets to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine.)