'Church Basement Ladies' tasty treat at the Crown

The sequel to "Church Basement Ladies" is subtitled "A Second Helping," and it's certainly a heapin' helpin' at Crown Uptown.

The homespun tale that celebrates rural Minnesota Lutheran ladies who toil in the church basement kitchen continues to be a sweet, funny, sometimes poignant experience. The original became the most successful musical in Crown Uptown's 30-year history in 2008.

Minneapolis-based producer Curt Wollan, whose Plymouth Playhouse launched this phenomenon in 2005, is back to guest-direct this production. He has said he considers "CBL" sort of "Seinfeld" for older folks because nothing much happens on stage, except life. That's the simple beauty of the show.

This sequel brings back the same four hard-working, good-hearted, outspoken ladies and their pastor.

Veteran Wichita actor Rob Summers is back as the pastor, who is sometimes a guide, sometimes a referee and often a hapless participant caught up in the ladies' shenanigans. As the only male on stage, Summers has a warm, clear baritone that provides solid support to the heavily soprano songs. He also has smooth and smart comic timing.

Tara Tucker, recently seen as Velma in "Chicago," plays the kitchen manager Karin, a 40-something wife and mother, and Meg Osborne-Parsley is back as her homesick daughter, Beverly, who had a taste of the outside world in school but prefers the comfort of family to a career.

Both Tucker and Osborne-Parsley have clear, beautiful sopranos evident in the touching ballad "Cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger and Clove" about the mother-daughter relationship and passing life lessons from one generation to the next.

New York opera/Broadway singer Nancy Evans plays rigidly conservative kitchen matriarch Vivian, a longtime widow who is skeptical of progress and horrified by change. Evans' operatic range gets a roller-coaster workout in a comedy/fantasy number about her scary experiences in the wicked city.

And Minneapolis-based Diana Wilde often steals the show as farm wife Mavis. Both Evans and Wilde paint their characters in broad, delightful, comic strokes.

Director Wollan keeps the pace uncomplicated and straight-forward. Musical director Kimberly Dugger coached the ladies into close multi-part harmonies reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters. And choreographer Barb Schoenhofer provided some surprises, including a few high-stepping (and girdle-exposing) chorus line kicks — pastor and all. This second helping is a gentle, tuneful, deliciously evocative feast.

If you go

'Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping'

What: Musical-comedy sequel

Where: Crown Uptown Theatre, 3207 E. Douglas

When: Runs Thursday-Sunday evenings through June 13 with six added Thursday matinees.

How much: Tickets $26.95-$33.95 (plus tax) includes buffet; call 316-681-1566.