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Theatre / Leading Ladies

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Leading Ladies is a 2004 Ken Ludwig theatrical farce.

Leo Clark and Jack Gable are two English actors currently touring the Americas with a mashup of scenes from Shakespeare. After being booed off the stage at Shrewsbury, PA Moose Lodge and realizing they're almost out of money, Leo happens upon a newspaper article that seems to offer a way out: Florence Snider, of York, PA, is desperately seeking her sister's long-lost children Max and Steve, last seen in England, to share in her inheritance when she passes. Leo persuades Jack that, as trained actors from England, they could pass themselves off as these lost children and share in the inheritance with the one living niece, Meg. But after settling on the plan and learning more from the gregarious (and sesquipedalian) Audrey, they learn the missing heirs are not nephews but nieces.


Setting off to the Snider residence as "Maxine" and "Stephanie," their task is complicated by a Florence who is very much not dead, Leo falling for Meg (who is engaged to the local pastor, Rev. Duncan Wooley), and an earthy doctor, Doc, and his son, Butch. Somehow, the plan expands to a showing of Twelfth Night, to be performed just before the wedding of Meg and Duncan. And Florence is still holding on...


This work exhibits the following tropes:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Jack confesses everything to Audrey and begs her forgiveness, culminating with a marriage proposal.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Doc and Butch BOTH find themselves attracted to Jack's "Stephanie" alter ego. Meanwhile, Meg is wondering about her own sexuality because she's attracted to "Maxine," not realizing it's Leo underneath.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Duncan gets several speeches about how untrustworthy and attention-seeking actors are.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: Leo and Jack have to perform numerous quick changes into and out of their Maxine and Stephanie disguises. Jack's final change, out of Stephanie's garb and wig and into his own clothes, has to be accomplished in about 30 seconds.
  • Disguised in Drag: Leo and Jack are disguised as Maxine and Stephanie respectively.
  • Disposable Fiancé:
    • While Duncan makes it to the end of the play, he does not get married to Meg. He falls under the bland sort, with a small side of Meg having grown past him and realizing that she should marry for love, not for convenience.
    • Similarly, Audrey throws off Butch near the end of the play for Jack.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: When Jack first meets Audrey, he finds it hard to focus on anything except her prominent chest.
  • The Ditz: Audrey plays this role in general. She speaks fairly intelligently in general, but is prone to talking without thinking, and sometimes doesn't seem to get metaphor.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Audrey and Meg walk into the living room (unseen) just in time to see Leo and Jack pull off their wigs and overhear the two men talk about how they've been staying in disguise just to remain close to the women they love.
  • Everybody Knew Already: By the time Leo and Jack are ready to come clean, Meg and Audrey have already discovered the truth - in Jack's case, literally just moments before.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": "Doc" Walters never has just first name revealed.
  • Gag Boobs: Audrey's bombshell appearance comes in for a few jokes:
    Audrey: It's my first day at the Tastee Bite. See? [Indicates logo on tight sweater] "Tastee Bite."
    Leo: The first 'E' gets a bit lost in the middle.
  • Girl Next Door: Audrey is sweet, innocent, helpful and wholesome - though she also has bombshell looks and plans to give her eventual husband a real workout in bed.
  • Hand Signals: Leo and Jack fake signed language initially due to the real Stephanie being deaf and dumb. Jack rightfully points out that signed languages aren't as simplified as what they're doing.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: Audrey talks to Stephanie (Jack) about how when she meets the right guy someday, she's going to give him a wedding night he'll never forget. At which point, Jack/Stephanie starts drooling.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: A message meant to draw Duncan into a staged seduction by "Stephanie" gets handed to the licentious Doc instead, giving "her" an extremely persistent Abhorrent Admirer.
  • Marriage of Convenience: Meg and Duncan became engaged because he was a friend of the family and he helped care for her when her parents died. She feels like he's the only person she can talk to about her parents, and hopes that's close enough to love.
  • Meet Cute: Jack meets Audrey for the first time when she loses control on her roller skates and crashes into him.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Audrey correctly uses most of the large words she sprinkles into her speech, but feels compelled to define them right after usage in case other people don't understand them.
    "The aisles. See? They're nice and straight. And they're numerous, which means there's a lot of them, and they're contiguous, which means that one comes right after the other in a straight line, like two worms sucking each other's lips. My name's Audrey."
  • Tango: Florence's party includes a tango between three pairs: Florence and Duncan, Audrey and Butch, and Doc and Stephanie.