Looney Lutherans entertain local crowdWORTHINGTON — The menu, of course, featured hotdish and Jell-O. What else would the Perky Presbyterians serve to the Looney Lutherans?
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The menu, of course, featured hotdish and Jell-O. What else would the Perky Presbyterians serve to the Looney Lutherans?
The occasion was a Saturday luncheon hosted by Westminster Presbyterian Church and featuring entertainment by “The Looney Lutherans,” an ensemble of three professional actresses from the Twin Cities. Greta Grosch, Dorian Chalmers and Robbie Mancina met as cast members of “The Church Basement Ladies,” the now-iconic musical that celebrates Minnesotans’ quirks and Lutheranism.
“My bio in ‘Church Basement Ladies’ also says that I do corporate entertainment, and some lady from St. James called and wanted me to come and entertain, but she wanted ‘Church Basement Ladies,’” recalled Grosch about the genesis of “Looney Lutherans.” “I checked (with the producers of the musical), and of course was told I couldn’t do that.”
But it did give Grosch an idea about creating a traveling show using the same brand of humor that made ‘Church Basement Ladies’ so endearing.
“I went into the dressing room and said to Dorian and Robbie, ‘How do you feel about doing a show?’ Grosch continued. “We booked a couple of events before we even knew what we were doing.”
One booking was a senior expo, with a focus on healthy living, so the actresses decided to come up with their own lifestyle tips. That’s still the premise they use today, promoting a fictional cookbook with a lengthy title, “Use Your Food, A Guide to Healthy Living Inside and Out, From Our Kitchen to Yours: Eat Like a Lutheran.”
While the general concept is the same, the program has evolved over the last three years, and the women say their best ideas come during the car on the way to a gig. They often get funny looks from other motorists as they practice choreography en route.
“We rehearse and laugh in the car,” said Chalmers. “One time, Robbie was driving and she almost had to pull over because she was laughing so hard.”
“The car ride is my favorite part of the day,” inserted Mancina.
Their latest traveling inspiration is a bit about “going green” and recycling, which hasn’t made it into the show yet; that will come farther down the road.
For the Worthington gathering, which included not only Presbyterians and Lutherans, but even a few Catholics — “It’s funny, but they look just like us, don’t they?” quipped Grosch as her “Looney Lutherans” persona — they shared innovative exercise methods, beauty tips and recipes.
The women — in character as Lois Jenson (Grosch), Ginger Johnson (Chalmers) and Bella Anderson (Mancina) — made a grand entrance, stripping away sedate choir robes to reveal figure-hugging flower-printed jumpsuits adorned with feather boas and singing “Lutheran Dancing Machine” to the tune of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” setting the tone and pace for an hour filled with music, laughter and audience participation.
A segment on The Lutheran Food Circle — the women’s answer to the USDA’s Food Pyramid, with hotdish, “the world’s most perfect food,” at the center — included a musical number, “Gimme, Gimme Some Lefse,” a potato-throwing contest between two volunteers from the audience and the assertion that “We’re all kind of like hotdish,” but instead of soup, “the binding agent is God’s love. … Even though we’re falling apart, it makes us all delicious.”
Although they’ve traveled the Upper Midwest as the “Looney Lutherans” for three years now, the actresses assert that they get just as much enjoyment out of their presentations as the audience.
“It’s just us in costumes,” said Mancina about their characters.
“We’re lucky and blessed to do what we love and share it with other people,” Chalmers said.
“We have so much fun together,” agreed Grosch. “It’s a means to an end. We get to have fun together and share it with others.”
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