Amidst the Long Beach convention center, the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific is the International City Theatre. An elegant little theatre, filled with plush purple seats and tiered seating all facing the small stage. “Leading Ladies” by Ken Ludwig has been billed as “Some Like It Hot” meets Shakespeare. Now as a huge fan of both I was prepared to be wowed. That preparation was further settled when the woman sitting next to me, assured me with through the roof enthusiasm, that I would absolutely love the show.
Ludwig is known for writing fabulous comedies that are some of my favorites, including “Moon over Buffalo” and “Lend Me a Tenor”. However, to me, “Leading Ladies” was more of a lack luster rip-off of “Some Like It Hot”. This sounds harsh and I will assure you that I did not hate the show. There are charming performances within this production, personally I think the problem either lies in the deliverance of the lines or the lines themselves. However, from the laughing occurring throughout the theatre this conclusion could be mine and mine alone.
This play focuses on a small town, York, PA, two down on their luck actors and an old woman who is dying and searching for her long lost nieces. Leo (David Engel) and Jack (John J. Joseph) have one dollar to their name and a suitcase filled with Shakespearean costumes. Leo leads the way in his idea to pose as the two nieces in order to inherit the millions of dollars. The only problem is she is not yet dead and she expects them to hang around for her niece Meg’s (Jamison Lingle) wedding, which is in four weeks. The obvious occurs when Leo falls in love with Meg and Jack falls in love with a local named Audrey (Lyndsi LaRose). The story is not new and it is cute, but the funniest lines were forced and all of it seemed way too over the top.
LaRose happens to be the one who stole the show. Her portrayal of the not-too-smart but dying to be educated Audrey was endearing and hysterical. She is pulled to play a man in a play within the play in the second act and decides to do her character in her best Marlon Brando impersonation, for me that moment alone is worth admission.
Overall this particular production of “Leading Ladies” is not fabulous. There will be some laughs, but perhaps not as many as Ludwig intended there to be. However this production just opened and runs through July 1st. I always like to give a show the benefit of the doubt that it will improve with the several weeks left in its run, and personally I really hope it does.