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Playhouse to present ‘Leading Ladies’

August 29, 2012
From staff reports , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - "Leading Ladies" will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Brooke Hills Playhouse.

"The actors have to make the audience believe that two men who look like men can dress like women and make others believe that they're women when they put on wigs and dresses," said Russ Welch of Wellsburg, director of the Brooke Hills Playhouse production of Ken Ludwig's comic farce.

"Leading Ladies" tells the story of Jack and Leo, two down-and-out British actors who find themselves performing "Scenes from Shakespeare" at a Moose Lodge in Pennsylvania. When they hear that an old lady in a nearby town is about to die and leave her fortune to two long-lost English nephews, they resolve to pass themselves off as her relatives to get the cash.

Article Photos

Rob DeSantis, left, Crystal Sharma and Tess Kowalski rehearse for the Brooke Hills Playhouse production of Ken Ludwig’s comic farce “Leading Ladies,” to be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations and information, call (304) 737-3344..

But Jack and Leo don't find out until they get to the woman's home town that the relatives aren't nephews, but nieces, so they become Maxine and Stephanie to make their scheme work.

Welch admitted the challenge of telling such an outlandish tale can be daunting.

"It requires more of a suspension of belief on the part of the audience, kind of like believing that nobody recognizes Superman when he puts on a suit and glasses as Clark Kent," Welch said.

Welch came to the play with experience in working with Ludwig's writing, as a director on "Lend Me a Tenor" and as an actor in "Moon over Buffalo." Welch said he feels comfortable with Ludwig's style.

"I understand his thinking patterns, and it helps that his works are very popular," Welch said. "Ludwig seems to specialize in period pieces -'Leading Ladies' is set in 1958 - but his works aren't dated."

Welch noted the title characters, played by Cliff Welch (Leo) and Nick Oliveira (Jack), both of Wellsburg, had two major goals to meet as they prepared to perform the play.

"Cliff and Nick have to think British and maintain consistent British accents, while tapping into their inner feminine side when they're dressed as women," he said.

The whole cast, some of whom never have done farce before, had to adjust to a different pace than they'd experienced acting in conventional comedies, and "with farce, everything has to move faster," Welch said.

"Leading Ladies" also presented some technical challenges for Welch, who designed and built much of the set. "The set design that comes with the script couldn't be used on the playhouse stage, because of our limited space," Welch said. "We can't do a real two-level set here, so the second level is a couple of feet off the ground, a hallway becomes a 3-foot flat with a doorway and the garden is a wall painted on a flat," he said. "The challenge is to make the set look believable despite the physical limitations."

Tickets for "Leading Ladies" are $10 for adults; $8 for students, senior citizens and groups; and $6 for children younger than 12. For reservations and information, call (304) 737-3344.

While the playhouse summer season will end with "Leading Ladies," preparations are under way for a fall production of Richard O'Brien's musical comedy, "The Rocky Horror Show," to be presented at 8 p.m. Oct. 19-20 and 26-27 and midnight Oct. 20 and 27. That show will be directed by Pete Fernbaugh of Weirton.

Because of "The Rocky Horror Show's" dialogue and subject matter, no one under 17 will be admitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Tickets for "The Rocky Horror Show" will be $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and students and $11 for children younger than 12. Patrons may purchase tickets for the musical at early bird prices at the playhouse box office Sept. 7-9 during the Brooke County Fair. Early bird tickets will cost $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and $8 for children younger than 12.

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