By Graydon Royce

"Away in the Basement" sounds a bit like one of those clever Brave New Workshop titles, but it’s the name of Troupe America’s third iteration of Church Basement Ladies. The Curt Wollan franchise first struck gold in 2005 with a musical by playwrights Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke and composer Drew Jansen. Greta Grosch, one of the original cast members wrote the second coming two years later with Jansen and Dennis Curley. This time, Grosch and Jansen are the team and the piece focuses on a Sunday School Christmas program in 1959.

The show doesn’t open until Nov. 12 but Linda Twiss, Troupe America’s marketing manager, tells me that November is more than 97 percent sold at the 200-seat Plymouth Playhouse. Demand is so high that the company is doing 13 to 14 shows a week — three on Saturdays, and even a 1 p.m. Monday — with a double cast. December is 85 percent full and even January, traditionally a black hole for holiday shows, is 70 percent sold.

Grosch returns to the cast, along with Tara Borman, Dorian Chalmers and Tim Drake. Janet Paone, the brilliantly funny Vivian Snustad, is sitting this one out.

The original show is on a 20-city tour right now. The second version is in production at New Theater Restaurant in Kansas City with Barry Williams (yes, Greg Brady) as Rev. Gunderson.


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