La Comedia serves ‘A Second Helping: The Church Basement Ladies Sequel’
By Mike Woody
As my waistline is a testament to, I often don’t know when to scoot away from the table but instead keep going back for more. When something is so tastefully delicious, just one serving isn’t enough. All the savory flavors want to be enjoyed again. It’s the same reasoning that brought me back to La Comedia for ‘A Second Helping: The Church Basement Ladies Sequel.’
My appetite for entertainment was thoroughly filled last year by ‘The Church Basement Ladies,’ with its perfect recipe for a good time. It contained the right dose of sharp humor, blended with a pinch of sweet sentiment and topped with a mix of reality. I had been craving more of it and while ‘A Second Helping,’ contains most of the same ingredients and is pleasantly satisfying, I think it could have stood a few more minutes in the oven.
The show centers around the ladies of a Lutheran church’s basement kitchen in a rural Minnesota town in 1969. The veteran leadership of Vivian Snustad (Denise Cox) and Mavis Gilmerson (Janet Brucken) is still in place, along with Karin Engelson (Becky Barrett-Jones) and her daughter Beverly (Kara Cover). Their culinary skills are overshadowed by their witty banter and physical antics that tickle your funny bone upon digestion. While preparing a series of special meals, the women unite to deal with the dramas of a struggling marriage, losing a loved one and becoming a mother.
For any dish I was preparing, I would want Mavis and Vivian to be a part of it. Each are bold characters that add a real zing, and are portrayed with absolute perfection. Mavis swings a butcher knife around as freely as she does one liners, but thankfully only her punch lines connect with the audience. Set in her traditional ways, Vivian is strongly against ‘the city,’ and anything modern, but has a heart as sweet as a chocolate cake. The combination of women creates a tone of comedy that’s perfectly golden.
Much of their wisdom is passed on to Karin, whose daughter, Beverly, unexpectedly shows up for a permanent visit. Beverly comes bearing great news, which the show revolves around. As Beverly (Cover) is the only change from the original cast, and fits in perfectly.
Also returning is Pastor Gunderson (Chris Kramer), whose hands are kept full trying to keep up with the Ladies. He, like his wardrobe, experiences some changes through the course of the show.
‘A Second Helping,’ is a musical, but I feel the songs were added just so it could fit that genre. Some of the lyrics were humorous, and choreography extremely creative in ‘Get Back in the Game,’ and ‘Vivian’s Bad Trip,’ but seemed like a’la carte items. I enjoyed the meat & potatoes of the dialogue but the music was like that vegetable that has to be eaten too. However, the vocal performances were all well done, particularly by Barrett-Jones, whose sound resonated at the perfect cooking temperature.
Like with movies, very rarely does a sequel match the original in quality. (Debates rage on over ‘Empire Strikes Back.) ‘A Second Helping’ reminded me of all the laughs in the first ‘Church Basement Ladies,’ and some were even referenced such as when Mavis was having hot flashes and how she would open the stuck furnace room door. The good memories were recalled, but not surpassed. There is still a healthy supply of laughs in ‘A Second Helping,’ and I’m glad to have partaken, but it doesn’t beat the fresh taste of the first serving.
La Comedia, 765 W. Central Ave., in Springboro, presents ‘A Second Helping: The Church Basement Ladies Sequel’ through October 30. Evening performances Wednesday – Sunday (arrival time 5:30-6:00 p.m.) and matinees Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday (arrival time 10:30-11:00 a.m.). Reservations can be made by phone at (937) 746-4554 or 1-800-677-9505. Adult tickers range in price from $51-$69. Discounts include buy-one-get-one-free with Entertainment of Prestige Dining Club Cards. Visit www.lacomedia.com for more information.