A Second Helping – The Church Basement Ladies Sequel

When the Tupperware Falls out of the Cupboard

As the season opener at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia last year, Church Basement Ladies sold out early.  Following the adage “Don’t mess with success”, Co-Artistic Directors David Rogers and David Hogan have gone down the same path this year, presenting A Second Helping – The Church Basement Ladies Sequel. And again, it is nearly sold out.

In the original production of Church Basement Ladies, I said the humour was based on recognition.  The Petrolia audience loves it because they see a reflection of themselves.  In particular, the opening night audience loved the farmer jokes.  When one character, Mavis, says if she had known that some men come home with clean clothes, she wouldn’t have settled for a farmer.  Later, Beverly, the young woman in the story, is surprised when her father guesses that she is pregnant.  Of course he knew, she was told, he’s got cows. Church basement  2nd helping

Like the original, the action all takes place in the basement of a Lutheran Church in Minnesota in the sixties.  I’ve never spent any time in Minnesota, nor do I know any Norwegian Lutherans.  But I certainly recognized these church basement ladies.  They could be cooking in any United Church basement in small town Ontario.  When all the Tupperware tumbles out of the cupboard, you know the frustration – it’s happened in every church basement; in fact, it’s probably happened in every household.

Two cast members are back from last year’s production.  Gail Hakala again has the role of Mavis and keeps the audience laughing with her quirky stories about her husband’s accidents.  Hakala is also the queen of physical comedy – climbing atop a kitchen chair, falling into the freezer.  Rebecca McCauley is delightful as the young woman telling her mother she’s moving back to the rural community as well as announcing that she is pregnant.  McCauley’s presentation of the poignant song “Cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves” makes many eyes tear up.

New in the roles this year are Mary Pitt as Vivian and Ann Mantini as Karin.  Pitt’s deadpan humour is brilliant and her comedic timing perfect.  Just a look from her is hilarious.  Mantini has a beautiful singing voice – she is one-third of the Mantini Sistes who we usually see singing together on stage at the VPP.  Mark Weatherly returns as the hapless Pastor Gunderson. He has an Elvis routine that is a real crowd pleaser.

For the most part, the story rings true and we can easily see ourselves. However, the scene where Beverly is going into labour, and her mother completely loses touch with reality is a little too extreme.  To keep the audience enjoying the feeling of recognition, that scene needs to be pulled back from going over the top.

The church basement ladies take “Waste not, want not” to the extreme:  Their slogan is “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without”.  I’m sure many in the audience heard their mothers’ voices!

It’s another enjoyable nostalgia trip, taking us back to those good old days.  Book your tickets now, if you want to have some laughs while taking a journey back in time.  This show will be soon sold out.

A Second Helping – The Church Basement Ladies Sequel continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until May 31.  Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets or visit www.thevpp.ca

Photo: Vivian (Mary Pitt), Beverly (Rebecca McCauley), Karin (Ann Mantini), and Mavis (Gail Hakala) surround Pastor Gunderson (Mark Weatherly) in the 2nd of the Church Basement Ladies franchise.   Photo by Ruth Brown and Diane O’Dell.

A Second Helping – The Church Basement Ladies Sequel
Written by Greta Grosch
Inspired by the books of Janet Letnes Martin & Suzann Nelson, including “Growing Up Lutheran”
Music & Lyrics by Drew Jansen & Dennis Curley
Directed by David Rogers
Choreography by David Hogan
Musical direction by Mark Payne
Performed by Gail Hakala, Ann Mantini, Rebecca McCauley, Mary Pitt & Mark Weatherley
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
May 19 to 31, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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