The playwright said Maggie Lacey and Everett Quinton will also be in the reading, which is in anticipation of the 2004 full staging by the Cleveland Playhouse in a co-production with another theatre. The 2004-05 Playhouse season has not yet been announced.
The new comedy by the Tony Award-nominated writer of Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo and Crazy for You had a separate reading in Washington, DC, Sept. 22.
Ludwig told Playbill On-Line Leading Ladies is "about two English Shakespearean actors who end up in the Amish country, in York, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s, putting on second-rate Shakespeare."
York is the town where Ludwig was born and raised. The British actors who find themselves in Pennsylvania in Leading Ladies are presenting a piece called Scenes From Shakespeare, "some horrible little show, where they tend to play the Moose Lodge and the Elks Lodge," Ludwig said. "I was exposed to this, I saw it, I was there."
The desperate thespians learn that a rich old lady in York is dying and will leave her money to her only surviving relative — the niece who takes care of her. But the lady wants to find her two long, lost nephews — who are English. She hasn't seen them since they were infants, when their mother took them to England. "If she can find them, she wants to split the inheritance three ways — $3 million into $1 million for each," Ludwig explained. "These two actors decide to pose as the two nephews. There's one major, major twist in the story that changes everything."
That twist, Ludwig revealed, is that the nephews are actually nieces, putting the leading men of the play into drag.
"I think Craig and Bronson will make a great pair," said Ludwig, who will direct the Cleveland reading. "Sort of like Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, which should give a pretty good hint about what happens in the play: The two English nephews turn out to be nieces. Craig and Bronson have to go into the town in drag, wearing Cleopatra and Titania costumes from an old production. This convention hasn't been done on stage in a straight play since, literally, Charley's Aunt — at least that I know of, and I'm an addicted reader of stage comedies. And it just seemed to me that after a hundred and some years it was time to be done again."
The industry reading for Leading Ladies is 7:30 PM Oct. 30 in Cleveland. The rehearsal period is three days, "so it will also give me a good opportunity to work on the script" Ludwig said. Pinchot is known for TV's "Perfect Strangers," Broadway's Putting It Together and the tour of Stones in His Pockets. Bierko was Tony Award-nominated for the Broadway revival of The Music Man and also appeared in the Harry Connick-scored musical, Thou Shalt Not.
Ludwig saw two of his new works play his (current) hometown of Washington, DC: Arena Stage opened its season with Shakespeare in Hollywood and Arlington's Signature Theatre presented his scaled-down revision of Hecht and MacArthur's Twentieth Century. Lacey and Everett both appeared in Shakespeare in Hollywood. A separate staging of Ludwig's Twentieth Century redux will be presented in early 2004 by Roundabout Theatre Company, with Anne Heche and Alec Baldwin headlining.
DC-based Ludwig was Tony-nommed for the libretto for Crazy for You, the musical that won the Best Musical Tony Award, and for the comedy, Lend Me a Tenor. Both properties are international favorites in theatres.
He also wrote the book to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a short-lived Broadway musical that is now licensed for stock, amateur and regional productions.