Nathan Brown Directs CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES at Gaslight Dinner Theatre

April 18
11:27 AM 2012


Church Basement Ladies will serve up fun, food and a "delicious musical comedy,"  April 24-May 26, at The Gaslight Theatre in Dickson. Written by husband and wife team Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke, with music and lyrics by Drew Jansen, the musical comedy is based on the humorous novel Growing Up Lutheran by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson.

Directing Church Basement Ladies is Nathan W. Brown, who has directed or performed in over 30 productions at The Renaissance Center and is the associate director of theatre and resident music director. The cast includes Gaslight Dinner Theatre favorites Pacer Harp, Marilyn Fair and Michelle Valenti, as well as Kiersten Vorheis, rejoining the Gaslight family after a few years' absence, and long-time Renaissance Center friend and supporter Holly Wooten, who finally has an opportunity to be in a Gaslight production.

The story follows the ladies, from four generations, who work in the church basement, cooking meals for church functions, as they share recipes and solve the problems of a rural Minnesota church undergoing changes in mid-1960s America.

From the elderly matriarch of the kitchen, to the young bride-to-be, we see a touching, funny look at their lives as they handle a record breaking Christmas dinner, the funeral of a dear friend, a HawaiIan Easter Fund Raiser, and a steaming hot July wedding. From their own special pulpit below the House of God, the ladies cook and chat, staving off recipe disasters and keeping Pastor Gunderson on course. The result is a down to earth and tasty musical comedy that all ages will enjoy.

Marilyn Fair plays the matriarch, Vivian Snustad, with Kiersten Vorheis as Mavis Gilmerson, Holly Wooten as Karin Engleson, Michelle Valenit as Signe Engleson and Pacer Harp as Pastor Gunderson.

Church Basement Ladies was originally produced by Troupe America, Inc. at the Plymouth Playhouse, in Minneapolis, Minnesota and opened September 8, 2005. The Church Basement Ladies trilogy also includes A Second Helping: Church Basement Ladies Sequel, set in 1969 as the world is changing along with things at their own House of God; and Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas.

Performances of Church Basement Ladies include Friday and Saturday evening shows (dinner at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m.) and Tuesday and Thursday Matinee performances (lunch at 12 noon and show at 1 p.m.) as well as a special Mother's Day Lunch and Show on Sunday, May 13 at 1 p.m.

Tickets are: $37 for the dinner + show evening performance and $27 for lunch + show matinees. Tickets for the Mother's Day Lunch and Show are $37/adults and $20/children (12 and under) and include a special lunch with salad and dessert, and the professional musical show. For tickets, call (615) 740-5600, (615) 740-5572 or toll-free: (888) 700-2300. Tickets are also available online:

In addition to Church Basement Ladies, the Gaslight Dinner Theatre presented Babes in Hollywood: The Music of Garland and Rooney in February/March, and will present three other shows this year:

Red, White and Tuna, July 3-July 28: Back by popular demand, Pacer Harp returns in multiple roles in the hilarious Red, White and Tuna. Harp has been seen in Greater Tuna and A Tuna Christmas on The Renaissance Center's Dinner Theatre stage. Set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas; the "third-smallest" town in the state, the plays are at once an affectionate comment on small-town, Southern life and attitudes but also a withering satire of same. The plays were written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard.

9-5: The Musical, September 11-October 13: Based on the classic hit movie, 9 to 5, this musical comedy features a score by seven-time Grammy Award®-winner Dolly Parton that includes the blockbuster title song.

This Wonderful Life, November 6-December 15: Pacer Harp, The Renaissance Center's Artistic Director of Theatre, will star in this one-man stage production of the iconic holiday movie, A Wonderful Life. Harp will play all the roles, including George, Clarence the angel, Mr. Potter and Mary. The whole cast of characters will come to life through one person.

The Renaissance Center now offers online ticketing for both the Gaslight Dinner Theatre and the Renaissance Players Community Theatre, as well as concerts and events at the center, at

Pictured: Michelle Valenti

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About the Author

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors - the history of which can be traced to 1989 and the first presentation of The First Night Awards - which honor outstanding theater artisans from Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and also includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors recognition. Midwinter's First Night honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. An accomplished director, Ellis helmed productions of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, all in their Nashville premieres, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show. Ellis was recognized by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror. In 2015, he directed William Inge's Picnic for Circle Players and Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years for VWA Theatricals, with The Larry Keeton Theatre's production of Beth Henley's The Miss Firecracker Contest set for spring 2016.


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