Jewel Box Theatre’s “Leading Ladies” Fabulously Funny Farce
Elizabeth Hurd Published: November 17th, 2016
Shakespeare uses mistaken identity and imposters as a comic vehicle quite frequently. The device never fails to bring lots of laughs. So what would a pair of down on their luck, Shakespearean actors do when they run out of funds and performance dates? Follow the lead of the bard of course! So that is what Ken Ludwig, noted playwright, does in “Leading Ladies” now showing at the Jewel Box Theatre. “Leading Ladies” premiered in 2004 to rave reviews and Jewel Box audiences genuinely enjoy the farce.
Set in 1958 “Leading Ladies” focuses on two English Shakespearean actors, Leo Clark and Jack Gable who find their careers dragging. They are traveling by train and touring on the Moose/Elk Lodge circuit with a medley show they’ve titled ‘Scenes from Shakespeare’ in rural Pennsylvania. They notice an ad in the paper from an elderly, wealthy lady searching for her late sisters long lost children named Max and Steve. They decide to impersonate the heirs, Max and Steve to get the inheritance. After discovering Max and Steve are the nicknames of Maxine and Stephanie, they continue, undaunted in drag. The small town becomes the scene of a great deal of hilarity and confusion as Leo falls for his beautiful ‘cousin’ Meg. Since Meg is to marry the pompous minister Duncan, there are grave difficulties. Jack also develops an attraction to Audrey, increasing the potential for disaster. “Leading Ladies” is full of plot twists and turns, romantic ups and downs and hilarious hijinks.
Billie Thrash directs a talented cast expertly keeping the audience constantly amused, frequently laughing and occasionally guffawing. In addition to a great cast, Thrash has assembled a skillful crew displaying “Leading Ladies” on a beautiful and workable set. This show meets the ideals of a perfect community theatre production. Ludwig sent his best wishes on this production and his best wishes have been realized with Thrash at the helm.
Dakota Bryant plays Leo, the suave and debonair English gentlemen and scoundrel with aplomb. He brings equal confidence to his Maxine persona. Derek Kenney plays Jack, the loyal friend who follows Leo cautiously. Jack foresees the difficulties in duping this family, but embraces the role of Stephanie with little trepidation.
Tiffany Tuggle Rogers is the beautiful Meg, eager to bring culture and excitement to her life. Rogers has a polished sense of comedy and very natural delivery. Lydia Carlton is the cute and rather flakey Audrey skating through her life with a great sense of humor. Carlton bring excellent timing and balance to her role.
Carol McDonald is Florence, the wealthy invalid. She rallies with fortitude upon finding her missing nieces and uses her acerbic wit to confound her doctor at every turn. Richie Rayfield is Duncan, the grasping, penny-pinching pastor courting Meg. Rayfield is slightly hesitant with his character but overall does justice to his part.
Craig Rauch is Doc, long standing family physician. Rauch is adept at creating the illusion of an inept individual, and he becomes endearing as well as funny. Keegan Zimmerman is Doc’s son, Butch, a chip off the old block. Zimmerman gives Butch the qualities of a dimwit but briefly reveals a brighter bulb, a tall order in a brief time. The entire cast meshes smoothly in timing, delivery and characterization.
“Leading Ladies is playing at the Jewel Box Theatre, located at 3700 N. Walker, at the First Christian Church annex. For information and tickets visit www.jewelboxtheatre.org or call 405-521-1786. The curtain is at 8:00 o’clock and performances run through December 4, 2016 so you can’t miss it!