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Summer is here and it’s time for light-hearted comedy. Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre responds with their latest edition of the Church Basement Ladies’ “saga” – A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement, written by Greta Grosch with music and lyrics by Drew Jansen. If you are familiar with the antics of these ladies from previous shows, you know what awaits you in this production. I have never been exposed to the genre and admittedly it took a little while to begin to get the feel for the style of the show – but by the middle, I was enjoying it a great deal.

Beverly (Hillary Smith, seated) learns about "Lutheran Love" from Karin, Mavis and Vivian (Carrie SaLoutos, Karen Pappas and Licia Watson)

Beverly (Hillary Smith, seated) learns about “Lutheran Love” from Karin, Mavis and Vivian (Carrie SaLoutos, Karen Pappas and Licia Watson)


As always, Beef and Boards has employed a very talented group of performers, most of whom are reprising roles from previous Church Lady adventures at B&B. These include Licia Watson, who combines physical comedy talents with her penchant for the facial “take” as the disapproving Vivian Snustad; Indianapolis native Karen Pappas, whose hilarious Mavis Gilmerson is a sort of stoic Lutheran everywoman; the talented Carmel native Hillary Smith as youthful Beverly Engelson – innocent, inquisitive and easily influenced; and the versatile Mr. Eddie Curry as Pastor E.L. Gunderson, whose nearly pants-less wedding is a highlight of the show. Carrie SaLoutos, comes off the show’s National Tour to join this production, and to continue her role as energetic and emotional mother and wife, Karin Engelson.
Mavis (Karen Pappas) proclaims that she was "Born to Farm" as Pastor Gunderson (Eddie Curry) watches

Mavis (Karen Pappas) proclaims that she was “Born to Farm” as Pastor Gunderson (Eddie Curry) watches


Other highlights, for me, included the beautiful duet by Karin and her daughter Beverly – “Growing Up, Letting Go” – as well as Mavin’s anthem-like “Born to Farm” and the entire company’s rousing “All Heaven Broke Loose” which I found myself humming all the way home.

The show is very much a blend of lively situational comedy episodes, peppered with songs and dancing. The main theme – being a Lutheran, and just what that means as a struggle to find balance in the unbalanced world – seems to be a familiar one. Made popular by Garrison Keillor with his Lake Wobegon reminisces, we also see this theme pop up for various different religions in such shows as Nunsense and Smoke on the Mountain. The “Church Ladies” series differs by highlighting everyday people – as opposed to the Nunsense series’ nuns – and by sticking with purely comedic situations – as opposed to the Smoke on the Mountain shows, which feature some pathos in it’s characters’ experiences. But it is interesting to note that all three of these very popular shows present a light jostling of our religious practices. And that is what makes this type of show so universally appealing, I think. We laugh at others, knowing that honestly we are no different.

Vivian Snustad (Licia Watson), left, tries to act appropriately as the ladies find themselves in  the basement of the Catholic church.

Vivian Snustad (Licia Watson), left, tries to act appropriately as the ladies find themselves in the basement of the Catholic church.


Visiting director Curt Wollan leads the cast through this edition’s high jinx and is ably assisted in his efforts by choreographer Wendy Short-Hays, musical director Debbie Myers and costumer Jill Kelly. The finishing touches are provided by Chef Odell Ward’s expansive buffet, this time featuring some delicious barbequed chicken.
The ladies frantically improvise a way to keep Pastor Gunderson’s shoes dry through the flooded area of the church to make it in time for his wedding

The ladies frantically improvise a way to keep Pastor Gunderson’s shoes dry through the flooded area of the church to make it in time for his wedding


Expect some great belly laughs from this latest B&B production. The combination of a wonderfully talented cast performing the clever songs and dialogue makes for a most entertaining afternoon or evening. And you can feel comfortable bringing the whole family to see it.

A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement continues through August 17. The easiest way to find out the entire schedule for remaining shows is to visit http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the B&B ticket office at 317-872-9664.

* – All photos provided by Beef and Boards, and Julie Curry

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