SHOWING : September 22, 2006 - October 15, 2006
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STAGE DOOR PLAYERS presents the Regional Premiere of “Leading Ladies,” the latest farce by Ken Ludwig.
Part Twelfth Night, part Some Like It Hot, this hilarious new comedy by the author of LEND ME A TENOR and MOON OVER BUFFALO, finds two actors, Leo Clark and Jack Gable, so down on their luck that they are performing "Scenes from Shakespeare" on the Moose Lodge circuit in the Amish country of Pennsylvania. When they hear that an old lady is about to die and leave her fortune to her two long lost English nephews, they resolve to pass themselves off as her beloved relatives and get the cash. Romantic entanglements abound, and mayhem ensues, when they find out that the relatives aren't nephews, but nieces!
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Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness|
Wednesday, October 4, 2006 ||
Sure, playwright Ken Ludwig is not known to be highly original; his "Leading Ladies" follows a predictable story line heavily borrowed from Shakespeare, Coward, Wilde, Sheridan and even Aristophanes.|
So what is Ludwig's gift? He takes the tried-and-true and makes it seem new. Sure, there is little concern for logical plot and in-depth characterization in this celebration of clowning. No matter; super-sized laughs are served abound. Only the terminally dour will fail to be seduced by all the mayhem.
Oh and what clowning and mayhem! The play may be the thing, but it's the players who make this thing soar. "Actors are liars - they lie for a living," says the pompous minister who tries to undermine the hilarity. And the eight Stage Door players make up a splendid ensemble of liars who are terrific at making us believe the script's many improbabilities.
The ensemble is led by a pair of tacky Shakespeareans playing the Moose Lodge circuit who pass themselves off as women to con a dowager out of her fortune. Bobby Labartino and Piotr Stapor play Clark and Gable (get it?) respectively, together milking and mugging their way through Ludwig's script, manifesting a bawdy tour de force performance as the show's two "leading ladies".
I'll admit that at times the staging by director Robert Egizio appears somewhat overhanded, perhaps for mere effect. And certainly there are too many over-the-top moments by the players. But even if the director tries a tad too hard and his troupe of jesters occasionally push the comedic envelope a bit too far, all is forgiven, because their romp scores far more palpable hits than misses. "Leading Ladies" is a clear example that sometimes the sum is greater than the parts, and this particular production scores overall as first-rate.
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To “She”, Or Not To “She”|
Monday, September 25, 2006 ||
My wife and I went to see “Leading Ladies” at Stage Door Saturday night (Sept 23rd). It was opening weekend and this was the “regional premiere” of the latest work from the pen of Ken Ludwig. Billed as a cross between “Some Like It Hot” and “Twelfth Night”, the evening held much promise and intrigue. I was curious to see what clever bits of staging director Robert Egizio had come up with and what wonders Chuck Welcome had done with the set design and implementation. I wondered if I knew anyone in the cast and whether the script was any good. I was also pondering whether this one would measure up to previous productions from SDP. |
Let me say at the top that I am not a big fan of “sex farces”. Homophobia as a source of humor hits me a little like racism as a source of humor: it can be funny if done with the right touch, but many times it is not. Also, I feel that a guy in drag is a lazy way to get a laugh. I didn’t say it wasn’t funny; just that I think it doesn’t take much work to get laughs that way. But when Bobby Labartino came on stage channeling “Uncle Milty”, I had to rethink my position. He was “working it”!
It is a fact of nature (and sex farces) that men in drag make “unattractive” women. If they were better looking than the “real” women on stage, it wouldn’t be funny (it would be cabaret)! Bobby’s resemblance to Milton Berle in drag is uncanny. I don’t know if that was intentional or just genetics, but it was most definitely effective. He looked more masculine in drag than he did in a coat and tie! His “partner in crime”, Piotr Stapor, I’m sorry to say, was not just “unattractive” in drag. He was downright ugly. U – G – L – Y Period. He knew it. The audience knew it. Everybody knew it!
And God was that funny!
Both of these guys are very talented actors and played off each other with great timing. Their “Mutt & Jeff” physicality amplified the laughs with an additional layer of visual humor. They could just stand next to each other, not say a word, and get laughs.
But the show isn’t just about two guys in drag.
Yes it is!
There is a pretext of why they have to be in drag, but who really cares about that. The story is about two guys in drag and the lengths they go to, to maintain the illusion of their alter egos. The story is pretty predictable. But there are a number of scenes that are not. There were some truly clever new “takes” on some ancient situation comedy which were refreshing and hilarious! A real treat!
This show is an uproarious romp through gender confusion, mistaken identity, and eccentric characters – while still offering up a heart felt tribute to William Shakespeare (which simultaneously pokes fun at actors). The pace and staging of this production is exquisite with entrances, exits, dialogue, lights, sound cues and scene changes done with professional precision; which is absolutely critical to this type of show. A joke or bit can’t afford to be dropped, or delivered too slow, or else it will become the lead car in a ten car pile-up, as the rest of the show crashes into it.
Each member of this cast has wonderful comedic skills: delivery, timing and physical humor. They came across as a team; an ensemble dedicated to working together to bring out the best in each other and the show. That really makes for a great theatrical experience, both for the audience and for the cast.
Speaking of the cast, I would like to share a few thoughts:
I have seen Amy Rundabaken Smith in several other shows around town and she has always been good, but boy she really shines in this one! Her timing and delivery are on right on the mark.
Barry Hopkins gives “quack” a wonderful touch of “wacky” in his turn as Doc Meyers. He is funny without being too silly. And when he is silly, he is even funnier!
John Keenan as Pastor Duncan Wooley gives his all for pretentiousness, pomposity and self-serving philanthropy. WWJLA? (Would Would Jesus Laugh At?) In this show, it would be John Keenan!
Then there is also Shayne Kohout as the delightfully ditzy “Boobs on Wheels” Audrey. Her “airhead” blonde portrayal was so much fun, I think she dyes her roots brunette just to fool people!
John Markowski as Doc’s son Butch has the thankless role of being comic relief - in a comedy. I, for one, would like to thank him…for being funny… in a funny show… surrounded on all sides by funny people. And I’m serious about that!
Holly Stevenson as Aunt Florence, who is always at death's door and perennially cranky, was like a Mapquest of comedy: she knew right where to go to get the laughs every time.
I have already talked about Bobby Labartino and Piotr Stapor, but I will go even farther. These boys play so nice together! They have great chemistry, and although they aren’t easy to look at for long periods of time in a dress, they are still wonderful to watch. Both are very strong comedic actors individually, and together they are undeniably great fun!
Once again, director Robert Egizio did not disappoint. In the past I have had to compliment him on his ability to minimize the weaknesses in some past productions. But with “Leading Ladies”, I couldn’t find anything that needed to be hidden. His blocking of the actors, use of space, casting, staging, script selection and production values for this show are all strong. He lined up some very strong resources and used them very, very effectively. He always does a great job, but this time he had all the pieces to work with and applied his masterful touch to all, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining, and professional quality production.
Chuck Welcome. What can I say? Another great looking set with clever touches and great functionality. He’s still God in my eyes.
Special Kudos to Dan Bauman for the Sound Design of the show. The music selection and sound effects were a great fit and were of great audio quality too! (I’ve also become a big fan of his bios in the program -a smart ass after my own heart)!
In case you haven’t guessed by now, I really enjoyed this production. Go see it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll leave the theater a wetter person (from laughing so much).
Disclaimer: I have no personal relationships with anybody associated with this production. I do not have a cross dressing fetish and any pictures showing otherwise are a complete work of PhotoShop editing.
Bonus Track: Alternate title for this review: The “Broad” Couple.
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| || Slighly biased, so I didn't officially review... by ElaineEtc|
| To start, I am biased toward the production because I love Stage Door and one of my best friends was in this production. Even so, I seldom even comment on reviews, biased or not, but felt this show was so good I had to put in my two cents. I have to agree that this is a WONDERFUL production. One of the best comedies I've seen in a very long time. I HIGHLY recommend this show to everyone.|
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by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)