Also see Susan's review of Born Yesterday
There is no doubt that there are a lot of laughs in Ken Ludwig’s new comedy Leading Ladies. Now playing at Ford’s Theatre, the show sports the requisite Ken Ludwig elements. There are cases of mistaken identity, quick entrances and exits and lets not forget the conveniently tidy ending.
The story of two down-and-out Shakespearean actors who masquerade as the nieces of a wealthy dying woman is quite fun. However, those who were hoping to see something different from Ludwig will be disappointed. Leading Ladies is just another reworking of a concept that Ludwig has used in past shows such as Moon Over Buffalo and Shakespeare In Hollywood.
As mentioned before, the show is quite funny and the cast seems to really be enjoying themselves. This is a stellar group that includes John Astin of television’s "The Addams Family," Charlotte Rae of "Facts of Life" fame and Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba. All three are outstanding. Ziemba shows off her skills by conveying both the naiveté and strength of her role. John Astin is delightfully silly at times as the town’s inept doctor, and Charlotte Rae steals the spotlight as the dying aunt who finds time to throw out sarcastic barbs during her decline.
JD Cullum and Ian Kahn portray the long lost “nieces” and do so very well. Despite his five o’clock shadow, Kahn seems quite comfortable in his female role and you can’t help but feel for Cullum when he reluctantly portrays a deaf and mute girl. Some of his finest moments are when he is paired with Lacey Kohl as the resident ditzy blonde. Rounding out the cast is Daniel Frith as the doctor’s lovesick son.
The sets by John Coyne work well. The main action happens in the sitting room of a large house. However, the set rotates to reveal the small stage of a lodge and the interior of a train car. The scene is further enhanced by Judith Dolan’s excellent costumes and Tom Watson’s wigs.
Despite its rather weak ending and too familiar story, Leading Ladies is an amusing show. Those who are unfamiliar with Ken Ludwig’s prior work will most likely find the show enjoyable. Those who are familiar with his work may yearn for something different. Leading Ladies runs at Ford’s Theatre through October 23rd.
Cast List: John Astin, JD Cullum, Daniel Frith, Ian Kahn, Patrick Kerr, Lacey Kohl, Charlotte Rae, Karen Ziemba