CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES: RISE UP O MEN Comes to Plymouth Playhouse

Let's hear it for the boys! Fans of the hit Troupe America musical comedy series Church Basement Ladies will finally get to know more about the men of East Cornucopia Lutheran Church, in the new production Rise Up O Men at the Plymouth Playhouse, running from now through May 21.

This sidesplitting, uplifting peek into the lives of the rural Norwegian Lutherans who audiences first fell in love with in 2005 is the sixth chapter of the story begun in the original Church Basement Ladies. Directed by Troupe America founder Curt Wollan, Rise Up O Men features familiar faces: Mrs. Mavis Gilmerson, Mrs. Vivian Snustad, and Mrs. Karin Engleson would never leave the basement kitchen unattended, of course (who would make bars for the youth group meeting?). But as they busy themselves with preparations for the church's 1964 Centennial Celebration, we get to see their coming and goings from the eyes of the menfolk, who have their own problems to solve. Karin's husband Elroy, farmer Carl and Great War vet Arlo are joined in brotherhood by series staple Pastor E.L. Gunderson. Their camaraderie unites them as they deal with furnace salesmen, looming retirement, rival Protestant denominations, the Pastor's bad jokes, and Arlene's even-worse cooking.

"We're ready to introduce some new faces to the many fans who've become part of the Church Basement Ladies family over the years," said Troupe America's Curt Wollan, who has produced all six of the shows. "After a decade of working together, our cast is really like family, and one of the best parts of having a family is watching it grow. We've also got a lineup of original musical numbers that we've caught our preview audiences humming on the way out of the theatre-between the belly laughs and the songs, Rise Up O Men is an exciting addition to the Church Basement Ladies canon."

The series of Church Basement Ladies productions are inspired by the bestselling book Growing Up Lutheran by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson. This latest chapter in the lives of these rural Minnesotan Norwegians was developed by Greta Grosch, who plays Mavis Gilmerson and wrote the scripts for the second, third, fourth, and fifth plays in the series. Longtime Star Tribune theatre critic Graydon Royce contributed additional material. Composer and songwriter Dennis Curley wrote the music, with lyrics by Dennis Curley and Greta Grosch. Starring original cast members Janet Paone as Vivian Snustad, Dorian Chalmers as Karin Engleson, and Tim Drake as Pastor E.L. Gunderson, the show also features Jeff March as Elroy Engelson and Peter Colburn as neighbor Carl. The choreography is by Wendy Short Hays, set design is by Jared Grohs, costume design is by Trina Benedict and musical direction is by Dennis Curley.

Tickets for Rise Up O Men are available for $29 and up. Group discounts are available. Weekday matinees are at 1 p.m. on Wed. and Thurs. Weekend matinees are at 3 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Evening shows are at 7:30 on Thurs., Fri., and Sat. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Rise Up O Men, or call 763-553-1600, ext 1. For group sales, call 763-383-1073. Overnight "Stay & Play" packages including a room for two at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center, a dinner voucher at the Green Mill Restaurant and two theater tickets to the current show, all under one roof, are also available.

Produced by Troupe America, the original musical comedy "The Church Basement Ladies" opened at the Plymouth Playhouse in September 2005 to a response so enthusiastic that its initial run lasted two-and-a half years. Five sequels have expanded the universe of these familiar and beloved "Steel Magnolias of the Prairie," making The Church Basement Ladies the most successful show in Troupe America's 25-year history. Millions of Americans discovered a heartfelt connection to its deeply funny church matriarchs through regional and national touring productions. For more information, visit plymouthplayhouse.com.




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