Church Basement Ladies

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Church Basement Ladies
Church Basement Ladies Logo
Music Drew Jansen
Lyrics Drew Jansen
Book Jim Stowell
Jessica Zuehlke
Basis Growing Up Lutheran by Janet Letnes Martin & Suzann Nelson
Productions 2005 Premier Off Off Broadway
2009 West Coast Premiere Off Off Broadway

Church Basement Ladies is a musical comedy, book by Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke, and music and lyrics by Drew Jansen. The story is about the ladies that work in the church basement cooking meals for church functions. The musical is inspired by the humorous book Growing Up Lutheran, by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson. Published in 1997, Growing Up Lutheran is a humorous "scrapbook of memories" of what it was like to grow up Lutheran in the Midwest in the 1950s. In addition to their best seller, Janet and Suzann have written numerous other works, and have performed together as "Those Lutheran Ladies" around the country. Their lives and writings have inspired five additional Church Basement Ladies' musicals.



  • Mrs. Lars Snustad (Vivian) - Janet Paone
  • Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis) - Greta Grosch
  • Mrs. Elroy Engleson (Karin) - Dorian Chalmers
  • Signe Engleson (Karin's Daughter) - Ruthie Baker
  • Pastor E. L. Gunderson - Tim Drake
  • Church Organist - Kyle Nelson

The 2009 National Tour featured William Christopher as the Pastor.

  • Signe Engleson has been originated by Tara Borman in every sequel.

West Coast Premiere[edit]

  • Mrs. Lars Snustad (Vivian) - Cheryl Morrin
  • Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis) - Sherri L. Jones
  • Mrs. Elroy Engleson (Karin) - Sheri Shepard
  • Signe Engleson (Karin's Daughter) - Christen Dugger
  • Pastor E. L. Gunderson - Howard Wilson


A celebration of the church basement kitchen and the women who work there, Church Basement Ladies is a musical comedy featuring four distinct characters and their relationships as they organize the food and solve the problems of a rural Minnesota church about to undergo changes in 1965. From the elderly matriarch of the kitchen to the young bride-to-be learning the proper order of things, we see them 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 course while thoroughly enjoying, (and tolerating) each other as the true "steel magnolias" of the church. Funny and down to earth, audiences will recognize these ladies as they witness the church year unfold from below the house of God.

Act 1[edit]

Christmas Dinner
Willie's Funeral

Act 2[edit]

Hawaiian Easter Dinner



There are five sequels to this show.

  • Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping. (Music and lyrics by Dennis Curley and Drew Jansen; book by Greta Grosch.) CBL 2 opened at the Plymouth Playhouse in Plymouth, MN in March, 2008, and at the New Theater in Overland Park, KS, in late summer 2009 with Barry Williams ("Greg Brady" from "The Brady Bunch") as the Pastor.
  • Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas. (Music and lyrics by Drew Jansen; book by Greta Grosch.) Opened at the Plymouth Playhouse in November 2009.
  • The Church Basement Ladies in "A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement." (Music and lyrics by Drew Jansen; book by Greta Grosch.) Opened at the Plymouth Playhouse in August, 2011.
  • The Church Basement Ladies in "The Last (Potluck) Supper." (Music and lyrics by Drew Jansen; book by Greta Grosch.) Opened at the Plymouth Playhouse in August, 2013.
  • The Church Basement Ladies in "Rise Up, O Men." (Music and lyrics by Dennis Curley; additional lyrics by Greta Grosch; book by Greta Grosch; additional material by Graydon Royce.) Opened at the Plymouth Playhouse in August, 2016.

All of the shows have opened at the Plymouth Playhouse in Plymouth, MN, and have been produced by Troupe America Inc., Curt Wollan, Executive Producer. In addition to touring nationally, the shows have been licensed in all contiguous 48 states and Canada, with more than three million audience members finding a connection to the characters and their stories. On November 18th, 2016, the company celebrated their 3000th performance at the Plymouth Playhouse.

External links[edit]