Richey Suncoast Theatre gives that question a good test with a splendid
rendition of the comedyLeading
Ladies, playing weekends through Oct. 30, thanks to smart casting
decisions by director Robin New and solid performances by each actor.
Outstanding is award-winning Richey Suncoast newcomer Miguel Rodriguez
(director/actor at Carrollwood Players) whose comic timing and physical
humor as Leo Clark, a down-on-his-luck Shakespearean actor, is
In the play, set in York, Pa., in 1958, Leo and his acting partner, Jack
Gable (a charming Jason Hoolihan), decide to impersonate the long-lost
relatives of a supposedly dying millionaire, Florence (an adorable Susan
Nichols), in order to finance their future acting efforts.
Problem is, the relatives, "Max" and "Steve," turn out to be Maxine and
Stephanie, two young females and not strapping men such as Leo and Jack.
Undaunted, the guys dig through their Shakespearean costumes for wigs
and costumes and transform themselves into imitation doting nieces in
totally outlandish garb.
And, really, is there anything funnier than big, 5 o'clock-shadowed
fellows playing young girls with high, trilling voices? Especially
fellows as talented as Rodriguez and Hoolihan. Rodriguez is here, there
and everywhere, making quick changes from Max to Maxine to Max, double
and triple takes, and coy pauses, while deftly and unobtrusively
allowing laughs to die down before delivering his next line. Hoolihan
manages to keep a straight face, while stumbling about in "Stephanie"
high heels, a diaphanous dress and lavender wings like those of Titania
in Shakespeare's A
Midsummer Night's Dream.
They're supported by some of the New Port Richey theater's best,
including multi award-winning Bill Schommer as Doc, the gold-digging dad
to Butch (Jeffrey Schoonmaker, a master of pratfalls), and Rich Aront as
the Rev. Duncan Wooley. Schommer can steal a scene simply by walking on
stage. But, trouper that he is, he resists the urge and simply ups the
ante with his performance skills. It is gratifying to see Aront, a
skilled performer in his own right, doing a bang-up job in a key role,
after having done yeoman duty in several minor on-stage (but major
Rounding out this pleasingly talented cast are stage newcomers Blake
Parker as Meg, fiancee to the money-grubbing Rev. Wooley (ah, but it's
all for "charity," he assures), and Ashlee Craft as the roller-skating
Audrey, adored by Butch, but smitten by Jack. Parker's Meg is sweetly
naive and innocent. Craft's Audrey is spunky and cute, nodding sweetly
and uttering non-sequiturs, though Audrey is smarter and wiser than she
sounds. These two young ladies are keepers, with promising futures on
Leading Ladies moves
quickly and smoothly, a credit to director New, who also took on stage
manager duties, aided by a sizable backstage crew. This is the third
show by multiple Tony Award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig at Richey
Suncoast, the previous two being Moon
Over Buffalo and Lend
Me a Tenor. Still another is on the schedule, Shakespeare
in Hollywood, set for Jan. 12 to 29.
By the way, Ludwig was born in York, Pa., the locale for Leading
Ladies, and knows the area well.