Leading Ladies

Leading Ladies


By Ken Ludwig
Directed by Brian McKay
Performed by Sheldon Davis, Jonathan Ellul, Neil Foster, Ashley Magwood, Leah Oster, Andy Pogson, Jeff Schissler, Karen Wood.
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
May 24 to June 11, 2011
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

LOL with Leading Ladies

There was comedy on stage and drama in the audience when Leading Ladies opened the season at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia. With previews just getting underway, Nancy Keys, a popular VPP staff member, was abruptly dismissed last week from her position of more than eight years. Keys had looked after VPP’s Young Company, and throughout the audience on opening night, young people were wearing t-shirts stating “Young Co Supports Nancy Keys”. Audience members were baffled by Key’s sudden departure. Her energy and enthusiasm for the Petrolia theatre will be missed. With her departure and former artistic director Robert More leaving earlier this year, one wonders about the stability VPP’s future.

But despite the turmoil in theatre administration, all went well on stage. Leading Ladies is a hilarious farce with great audience appeal, put together by a comedic cast.


Two British actors, Leo and Jack, are down on the luck, having been run out of small town Pennsylvania for their bad Shakespeare. When they hear that a rich, dying lady in the next town wants to leave her fortune to Max and Steve, her long-lost British nephews, they decide to test their acting skills to get her millions. However, they find out that she is actually seeking nieces Maxine and Stephanie, but decide to plunge forward with their deception anyway. Of course, the impostors encounter all kinds of crazy shenanigans before they are found out.

Jonathan Ellul as Jack/Stephanie is hilarious. While pretending to be Stephanie, a deaf-mute, his facial expressions are priceless. Ellul has brought comedy to VPP in the past – last summer as a hilarious character in the spoof 39 Steps, and in other farces. His comedic timing is spot-on. Andy Pogson is Leo/Maxine, another performer skilled in comedy. He has appeared in several VPP productions, including one of my favourites, Test Drive.

Karen Wood, a comic genius, plays old Aunt Florence who refuses to die. Wood has fun with the character’s split-personality craziness. Last summer, Wood was the droll Cockney maid in See How They Run.

Sheldon Davis is excellent as the quack-doctor, and Ashley Magwood plays the ditzy blonde well. Jeff Schissler is hilarious in the play within the play, while Neil Foster as the nervous reverend and Leah Oster as the young heiress both give more than adequate performances.

As with most farces, one must suspend belief at times. This farce also spoofs Shakespeare, which adds to the fun. Brian McKay’s direction has created a laugh-out-loud crowd-pleaser.

Leading Ladies continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until June 11. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets.


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2 thoughts on “Leading Ladies”

  1. The sudden dismissal of Nancy Keys was indeed a shock to our community of Petrolia; it just doesn’t make any sense. Of course, the show must go on. Congrats to Brian McKay on his production.

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