TGIF: Hey, hey, Leading Ladies: look who’s your opening act

Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

There are hundreds of good reasons to be in the audience this weekend for “Leading Ladies,” the current production by Brownwood’s Lyric Theatre. Quite simply, there are that many laughs in the Ken Ludwig comedy.

What’s more, there are hundreds of good reasons — plus one — to be in audience for the matinee performance on Saturday afternoon.

Ray Hildebrand, the guitar-strumming half of the groundbreaking 1960s pop singing duo “Paul and Paula,” will offer a mini-concert of songs as the audience takes their seats before the curtain rises. Hildebrand is planning to join several dozen members of the PrimeTimers group from First Baptist Church-Burleson who are holding a weekend retreat in Brown County, and he has offered to provide the music before the curtain goes up at 2:30 p.m. The church group is led by former HPU President Dr. Don Newbury.

Doors to the theater will open around 2 o’clock, so don’t be late.

Hildebrand was a student at Howard Payne when he and classmate Jill Jackson recorded “Hey Paula,” which spent several weeks at the top of the Billboard chart during the winter of 1963. They have both returned to campus several times to perform their hits and other favorites in the years since. Jill Landon will not be on hand this time.

The appearance by Hildebrand will be icing on the cake for members of Saturday’s matinee audience, because the main event that afternoon will be the play itself. “Leading Ladies” involves two hard-luck Shakespearean actors who find themselves in Pennsylvania, traveling between out-of-the-way gigs to perform plays by Shakespeare. Their less than sophisticated audiences aren’t very appreciative of their classical talents.

After reading that two heirs to a woman’s fortune haven’t been heard from since their infancy, they decide to pose as her long-lost nephews. The comedy begins when they learn that not only is the aunt refusing to die, but the missing nephews are actually nieces.

Those who regularly attend Lyric shows understand that there’s a special type of magic that happens on that stage. Those who watch any kind of performance — whether it’s on stage, screen, or television — know how that magic is enhanced when the ensemble “clicks.” After spending an evening earlier this week watching a rehearsal, I can report that the cast of “Leading Ladies” does exactly that. It “clicks.” It works. The rapport the cast members has translates into a camaraderie with the audience, and it makes for a fun-filled two hours of comedy.

Look back at the Bulletin’s interview with director Darlyne Ervin in Wednesday’s edition for more details about the story.

The show opens at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, with three other performances scheduled this weekend. In addition to the Saturday matinee, shows are also set at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Four additional performances are scheduled April 8-10, when the matinees will be on Friday and Sunday. Evening shows will be on Friday and Saturday. See the Lyric’s website at www.brownwoodlyrictheatre.com for details and ticket reservations.

While on the theater’s website, pause a few moments to look at the busy season the downtown venue has in store for the rest of the year. After the schedule was interrupted because of pandemic shutdowns, the Lyric is back at full strength, and its company of performers is flexing their considerable talents. Our community is all the better for it.

The Lyric is becoming a popular spot for events other than just musical, dramatic, and comedic theater. For example, the Professional Women’s Summit was held there last week, and the National Swing Band of Texas will perform a concert on April 23. That will be the first in the Dale Wheelis Memorial Concert Series, named in memory of the local dentist who was instrumental in the restoration of the 1914-era showplace and served for years on the Lyric board.

Future shows planned at the Lyric this year include “Footloose,” but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Meanwhile, registration is now open for the Kids Summer Theatre Workshop, so if you have youth who are interested, don’t delay. This opportunity typically fills up quickly.

However, right now, all you need to do is reserve your seats for “Leading Ladies.” It’s one of the shows included in the annual Patrons package, so if you’re a Patron of the Lyric, you only need to go online and select your seats.

See you at the Lyric!

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. By way of a disclaimer, he serves on the board of directors of the Lyric Theatre, so please excuse any unusual enthusiasm for these productions that the columnist may exhibit. He may be contacted at tgifcolumn@yahoo.com.