Leading Ladies

El Paseo Arts Foundation’s Leading Ladies is a Laugh Riot!

El Paseo Arts Foundation is delighted to present their local production of Ken Ludwig’s hilarious farce Leading Ladies, on October 17 and 18, 2018, at the SPI Convention Center. The evening begins at 6:30 p.m. with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, and the curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m.
Leading Ladies might be more aptly titled “Men Behaving Badly” or “Some Like It Hot – For a New Generation”. It also subtly draws on the dual identity and gender bending themes of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to create a doozy of a cross- dressing comedy that “gives the audience something powerful and potent laughter and a guiltless evening of theatre-going.” (Village News) It is a laugh a minute adventure that is full of love, deceit, cheating, stealing and, oh yeah, men in pantyhose.
The time is 1952 and the setting is rural Pennsylvania. The plot concerns Meg Snider, a lovely young lady who dreams of a life as an actress, reciting Shakespeare to audiences around the world. She lives with her wealthy, ailing, but feisty Aunt Florence who is perpetually on the brink of death, but has the surprising capacity to rally when it suits her. The 3 million dollars she’ll leave behind when she dies is of particular interest to Rev. Duncan Wooley, engaged to her lovely niece, Meg. Into this mix comes a pair of washed-up British, Shakespearean actors, Leo Clark and Jack Gable (Clark Gable, get it?).

After a disastrous performance of their production of “Scenes from Shakespeare” at a Moose Lodge in a nearby town, they see an article in a newspaper about a wealthy woman in York, PA who is near death and has been searching for the long lost nephews, Max and Steve. Her dear nephews moved to England with their parents when they were young children. Believing that this opportunity could be the funding they so badly need to get them to Hollywood and a planned production of Julius Caesar, Leo convinces Jack that they should assume the identities of the heirs and claim the fortune. Then, as chance would have it, they meet the pretty and slightly ditzy Audrey on the train to York. She is Meg’s best friend and she tells the two actors about a rich old lady who has just died. The old lady has been searching for her missing nieces (not nephews), cousins of the lovely Meg, who stand to inherit two-thirds of the 3 million. Of course, Leo believes that since they are actors, they are not to be deterred by the fact that the soon to be rich relatives are females not males. He pulls out their bag of costumes and drags the reluctant Jack to the home of their dearly departed Aunt – who it turns out is neither departed nor always dear.

As this play is a farce, it should come as no surprise that Leo falls in love with Meg and Jack falls in love with Audrey. Maxine/Leo convinces the stage struck Meg to perform Twelfth Night at her party the night before her intended marriage to Duncan. She will star with the famous actor Leo Clark whom Meg idolizes and whom Maxine says is her very close friend. This plan allows the two devious actors to spend the rest of the play doing quick costume changes to assume their male and female personas as events demand and woo the girls they love. Also on the scene are the Aunt Florence’s doctor, Doc Myers, and Audrey’s boyfriend Butch – and to coin a phrase, hijinks ensue. Just when you think it can’t get any more hilarious, Ludwig brings on yet another surprise twist, and the play gets funnier and funnier until its almost epic-in-scale ending.

Director Julie Boughter and her assistant Emily Ochoa have assembled a stellar cast of El Paseo Arts Players for the play. Danny Dollar projects style and authority as Leo, the scheming half of the British acting duo. As Maxine, he’s stately and imposing. Hayden Draker is the fall guy Jack, Leo’s partner in crime; and Jack’s “dainty” Stephanie delights with bursts of inspired clowning. Andrea Wright is the spirited and starry-eyed heroine, Meg, striving to break free from her bossy groom-to-be. Mark Shellard boils over with pent up rage as self-righteous and greedy, meddlesome pastor, Duncan. Briana Boughter plays Audrey with the delightful exuberance that makes this ditzy but wholesome girl next door so loveable. Frank Shisler evokes just the right amount of cynicism and confusion as the monumentally inept country quack, and Brandon Cantu is good humoredly dense as Doc’s son, Audrey’s beau, Butch. Finally, DeeOnda Ahadi brings her comic talents to the hilarious portrayal of the rascally matriarch Aunt Florence, who, thankfully, won’t die.
Tickets for Leading Ladies are $30 per person; $25 for El Paseo Arts members. Tickets are available for purchase at Paragraphs Book Store, S.O.S., the Art Gallery in Lighthouse Square and online http://www.elpaseoarts.org.
With a fabulous set and a bevy of costumes to support the actors’ work, this a not-to be-missed night of theatre. The leading ladies in Leading Ladies are no ladies really, but they’re undeniably riotous company. You’ll enjoy every moment of your evening with them.