The cast of 'Leading Ladies' giggles its way through a scene as Maxine (Ted Elzroth, third from left) and Stephanie (Frank Bowers, second from right) make their first appearance

Photo by Benjamin Patton


Leading Ladies-Gastonia Little Theater ready for final show of season

June 4, 2008
By Bernie Petit

When it comes to reading scripts for plays, longtime Little Theater of Gastonia stage director/actor Sarah Buckner is a bit jaded.

Buckner, also the theater director at Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, reads dozens of plays every year.
Whenever she's reading a play, she's got a simple rule of thumb to determine if it's one she'd like to do.

"My test is, if I laugh out loud when I'm reading something, it's good," Buckner said.

So, when she was asked to direct "Leading Ladies," the Gastonia theater's last show of the season, she put the script of the play, written by popular playwright Ken Ludwig, through her usual ringer.

She thinks the reason she so readily agreed to direct the play afterward will be the same reason audiences will eat it up.

"I giggled and cackled the whole way through," she said.
What makes the play so hilarious?

Think of the humor found in other popular Ludwig plays, like "Lend Me a Tenor" and "Moon Over Buffalo." "Leading Ladies" incorporates many of the comedic techniques found in those plays, such as slapstick shtick, the naivity of innocent characters from simpler times and plenty of innuendo.

But it's the play's similarities to the 1950s film "Some Like it Hot" (starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe) and the 1980s television show "Bosom Buddies" (Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari) that will provide the biggest laughs.

Because, like those predacessors, "Leading Ladies" offers something audiences can't get enough of - burly men disguised as women.

In this case, it's veteran Little Theater actors Frank Bowers and Ted Elzroth, portraying English Shakespearean actors Jack and Leo, who get to prance about the stage in petticoats and heels.

"They look pretty darn masculine," Buckner said. "We don't do a lot to make them look feminine. We're calling it ‘bad drag.' "

The play, set in the 1950s, focuses on Jack and Leo, down-on-their luck actors performing on the Moose Lodge circuit in the Amish country of Pennsylvania.

They get word that an elderly woman in York, Pa., is nearing her death and will leave a fortune of $3 million to her two long-lost English nephews.

After deciding to pass themselves off as the lost relatives, Jack and Leo make their way to York, only to discover that the relatives weren't nephews, but nieces.

That doesn't stop the duo from passing themselves off as women and fooling all of the townspeople, including Jack's love interest, Meg (Amy Crisp), the old lady's high-spirited niece who's engaged to the local minister (Phillip Wright).

"They're pretty big ladies, especially when they put on heels, and people keep talking about how they're such big ladies," Buckner said. "But they figure it's because they're from England and ladies in England must be a lot different than ladies from Pennsylvania."

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