SHREWSBURY – The pandemic shutdown of 2020 forced the closure of one local theater company but it gave rise to another.
Since raising the curtain on its first production in 2021, Square One Players has been working to keep live theater thriving in Shrewsbury. Its latest production and fourth show, “Leading Ladies,” opens March 18, at the Flanagan Theater at Southgate at Shrewsbury.
Joanne Smith co-founded Square One Players with Tara Alano and Tara Lamoureux. Smith had served as production manager for the Regatta Players, which produced shows at the same theater. Just two weeks before Regatta was set to put up “Over the River and Though the Woods,” COVID-19 hit the region full force and the shutdown began. The show was canceled and Regatta ultimately ceased operations.
A year later, Smith and her partners saw an opportunity to fill the void in local, live theater and they knew exactly what their first show would be.
“’Over the River and Through the Woods’ was such a good show and we already had the actors and they loved the show,” said Smith. “We had the sets and we had the costumes and we decided, we’ll do it!”
A common theme to the shows produced by Square One Players is fun and laughter.
“We do shows that we would want to go see. Shows that are light-hearted, mostly comedies,” said Smith. “
“Leading Ladies” fits that description to “T”.
A madcap comedy in the tradition of British farce, “Leading Ladies” tells the tale of two down-on-their-luck actors who decide to take on the roles of a lifetime, by impersonating the long-lost nephews of a wealthy elderly spinster. Their plans go sideways when they learn the long lost “Max” and “Steve” are actually “Maxine” and “Stephanie.” Not to be thwarted, they don makeup and dresses and seek to carry out their ruse, creating the type of mayhem you would expect and some, you might not.
“Leading Ladies” stars James Gillis as Leo/Maxine and Alex Gardner as Jack/Stephanie, both of whom are making their debuts with Square One Players.
In fact, Gillis is performing for the first time since high school.
“It’s been fun. It was a little intimidating at first, I felt like everyone [in the company] sort of knew each other. But it’s been so much fun. I’d definitely do it again,” said Gillis.
The cast also features Michelle England, Mary Johnston-Medina, Jim Catapano, George Smith, Christine Crugnola Petruniw and Theo Eisenmenger.
The show is being directed by Jeremy Woloski, who has directed two previous shows for Square One. With 25 years experience in state productions, Woloski has been thrilled to be part of the post-pandemic revival of live, local theater.
“I was a little worried that people weren’t going to go [to the theater] anymore, that it would just be done,” he said. “So, it’s been nice that now it’s almost back to what it was.”
Performances of “Leading Ladies” are March 18 and 25, 7:30 p.m. and March 19 and 26, 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online at www.squareoneplayers.com or by calling 508-669-7750.
Square One Players get set to bring community theater back to Shrewsbury