An unforgettable night at the theater

If laughter is the best medicine, prescribe yourself a healthy dose of "Leading Ladies" this month

Posted: Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ken Ludwig's "Leading Ladies" is a night of theater you do not want to miss. Two thumbs up, five stars, and hats off to Perseverance for this madcap production. Opening night, Nov. 6, was a magical evening of theater that I am sure will grow toward perfection with each passing performance.

Ludwig's script is a delicious bag of witty verbiage. I sat intrigued by every tasty morsel of dialogue, recited carefully and craftily by the actors. Dan Reaume and Rand Bigelow were as delightful a pair as Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye -their comedic timing, impeccable.

Bigelow and Reaume play struggling actors disguised as women trying to convince a rich, dying woman that they are her long-lost English nieces so they can receive her inheritance. Reaume's Maxine was unforgettable and seamless in every way: each gesture, each body position, each smile, each glint of the eye looked as if it was masterfully sculpted by an artist, not to mention the flawless delivery of each word of her lines. This is not to say that Reaume's Leo wasn't done well; it was. However, Maxine was a rare performance, beautiful to behold.

Bigelow's subtle sweetness was the ideal counterpoint to Reaume's bolder exuberance, and his quiet fortitude a good match for Reaume's strapping strut - the perfect Ethel to Reaume's Lucy.

The only small problem with Bigelow's performance was the volume of some of his lines when he was playing Stephanie. Not being able to hear everything he said kept me frustrated with his otherwise stellar performance.

Another wonderful performer is Allison Holtkamp, who plays Meg. Holtkamp has a hard job: she must fight to keep the focus on her in the midst of the dynamic duo comedy team of Bigelow and Reaume - because the play is truly about Meg. Holtkamp meets this challenge in a big way. She is the heart of the ensemble cast; she is warm, energetic, and endearing. She enraptured the audience while delivering a monolog (her rendition of Viola from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"), sending chills up my spine and leaving me breathless for several moments after she'd finished. Add to Holtkamp a delightful ensemble of other engaging and charming characters, and you have one successfully acted comedy.

In addition to the wonderful performances, another highlight of the show is the sound. Ex-Juneauite Rory Merritt Stitt created not just a soundtrack but also another character for "Leading Ladies" in a finely woven tapestry of musical melodies from the 1950s. Opening night, the sound itself received many vocal reactions from the audience, including laughter and applause.

And my biggest applause was for Brandon Demery, the director of this lively comedy. When I interviewed Demery, he said, "My biggest challenge in directing this play is the staging of it." Not having any previous classes in directing, and having only his experience as an actor to pull from, Demery seemed concerned about doing the script justice. Well, bravo Demery! Your staging was as satisfying in this production as watching a meticulously choreographed ballet. The movement of the actors was carefully planned and refined. This show was one of the best directed I have ever seen at Perseverance. I, for one, am hoping to see many more productions under Demery's direction.

If you only see one Perseverance show this season, let it be "Leading Ladies." In a world that is literally becoming darker by the day, let Perseverance Theater light the fires of your heart with this show.

The only drawback to this production is that sometimes you may miss important lines because you and the rest of the audience will be laughing so hard as the actors continue on. Hold for laughs, please! I wanted to hear every word of Ludwig's script -- it is just that good.

• Michaela Moore, theater director Juneau Douglas High School, can be reached at michaela_moore@jsd.k12.ak.us



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