There is a lot to enjoy about the film, particularly the dancing, which is capped by a wonderful fantasy number set in the local supermarket. Leading Ladies has a nice, quirky musical score. Dance is well-integrated into the film — these kids gotta dance, whether working at the pizza joint or flossing their teeth.
[printed September 5, 2011]
The Campari women live and breathe ballroom dancing.
Running the show is overbearing mother Sheri (Melanie LaPatin). She focuses most of her attention on her youngest daughter, Tasi (Shannon Lea Smith), whom she is grooming to win the regional ballroom dance competition. Waiting patiently in the background is her oldest daughter, Toni (Laurel Vail), the one on whom they depend. The only stable man in the Camparis’ lives is Cedric (Benji Schwimmer, season two winner of “So You Think You Can Dance”), Tasi’s saucy gay dance partner and Toni’s best buddy. Not the ideal family dynamic, but it works for them.
Soon the family balance is thrown off kilter when Tasi becomes pregnant, putting her chance at the competition in jeopardy. Further spinning Sheri into chaos, Toni, who finds a companion she can be her true self around (Mona, Played by the charming Nicole Dionne), comes out of the closet. Sheri is devastated, and it’s at this moment that the audience begins to see her many dimensions. She’s not just a loud-mouthed nag factory; it’s just that the divorcee envisioned a different life for her daughters and is heartbroken knowing her dreams won’t pan out as she planned.
It’s also in that emotional scene that real-life choreographer LaPatin, making her acting debut, brings her character to life and, surprisingly, shows acting prowess.
After the daughters’ secrets come out, a heartwarming story emerges about how these hurdles ultimately make the Camparis a stronger family unit.
If you enjoy dance as much as I do, then you’ll love the bonus material, especially the outtakes. The playful “Fruit Stand” sequence shows the cast and backup dancers, many you you’ll recognize from “So You Think You Can Dance,” shimmying atop grocery store conveyor belts, using various fruits as their props –a true visual feast.
by Christian Cintron
Thursday Aug 18, 2011
"Leading Ladies" is a sweet coming out story that explores the world of competitive dance. Given the current trends of musicals and ballroom dancing, this film couldn’t have come at a better time. There are lots of hilarious laugh out loud moments and tap your feet dance numbers that make the movie super approachable to all audiences.
Toni Campari (Laurel Vail) is the tomboy workhorse of her family. She spends all of her time supporting her eccentric mother, Sheri (Melanie LaPatin) and her dancer sister, Tasi (Shannon Lea Smith). Her only ally in her crazy world is her sister’s gay dance partner Cedric, played by "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist Benji Schwimmer. When she treats herself to a night out she meets Mona (Nicole Dionne), who changes her whole world. Tasi becomes pregnant, and all hell breaks loose when Toni decides to join the family business.
Vail is endearing as a girl just trying to find her voice in a family of loud eccentrics. She is able to capture the suppressed spirit of a dancer and make you root for Toni. LaPatin’s Sheri is part drag queen part soap opera vixen. Her over-the-top portrayal steals every scene she is in. Schwimmer also shines as the lovable best friend who not only offers funny quips, but also dances his way through the film.
The pacing of the film can be a little grating at times, given the length of some of the music numbers and montages. However, the blend of large-scaled choreographed dance numbers, show-stopping numbers, and even an original song or two will keep you thoroughly entertained.
It’s rare for a film to be so approachable to all audiences. The film may focus on a lesbian relationship but the story at its heart is about family. Where do you fit in a family of loud and crazy eccentrics? Toni’s mother and sister are such big personalities that they stifle her; it’s no wonder she can’t come out of the closet.
The movie also offers a sweet metaphor for what meeting your first love can be like. Toni had no idea she was even into women but when she meets Mona they engage in an elaborate dance number that would change anyone forever.
"Leading Ladies" is sweet, smart and funny. Like a great date the film will keep you entertained and full of fuzzy feelings. Part family melodrama and part first love story, it transcends the "coming out" genre by offering an entertaining film with a main character that just so happens to be coming out. It’s a definite must see for fans of dance, musicals and lady love.
Choreographer Dances Into First ‘Leading Lady’ Role
15 Aug, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff
Melanie LaPatin (center) stars in Leading Ladies alongside newcomers Shannon Lea Smith (left) and Laurel Vail.
As a choreographer with decades of experience, Melanie LaPatin knows her way around the stage. When the Brooklynite signed on to create ballroom and swing dance routines for the lesbian-themed comedy Leading Ladies, LaPatin was in her comfort zone.
But co-director Erika Randall Beahm, who also co-wrote and co-produced, had a different role in mind for LaPatin. She asked the dancing queen to audition to play Sheri Campari, the overbearing stage mom to two twentysomething daughters whose entire lives revolve around ballroom dancing.
“I said, ‘Why not?’ I’ve never done anything like that before, and I’m always open to new ideas and new things. … I knew I was dramatic,” LaPatin said with a laugh. “But I had no idea it would lead to that. I would do it again in a minute.”
Wolfe Video releases the film on DVD ($24.95) Sept. 13. Bonus material includes a blooper reel and alternate and extended scenes. [purchase]
In Leading Ladies, the Campari family is preparing to have one of its own compete in an important regional ballroom dance championship. However, Sheri spins out of control when her youngest daughter, Tasi (Shannon Lea Smith), gets pregnant and her oldest daughter, Toni (Laurel Vail), falls for the free-spirited Mona (Nicole Dionne).
LaPatin said she drew inspiration for the part from her real-life mother, Barbara LaPatin, whom she called “very high-strung and controlling.”
“I would describe Sheri as the person that I really don’t want to be, but I have a feeling that I’m a lot like her,” LaPatin said. “I was definitely obsessed about the dancing, more than she was, actually. It was myself that I was criticizing and nothing was good enough and had to be the best, so I really understood where she was coming from. If I had children, I probably would have been the same.”
While working on Leading Ladies, LaPatin had the opportunity to reunite with several dancers she’s gotten to know through “So You Think You Can Dance,” the Fox dance competition series that she and her longtime partner, Tony Meredith, choreograph. They included season-two winner Benji Schwimmer, Katee Shean, Kherington Payne, Courtney Galiano and Sara Vongillern.
As for the film’s message, LaPatin said people should take Leading Ladies’ tagline — “Let love lead” — to heart and not judge others based on whom they fall in love with.
“Live and let live,” she said. “Don’t we have more important things to criticize? I just believe that you are who you are, and who are we to decide who you should be?”
Did you know that Melanie LaPatin has a starring role in the new feature film called LEADING LADIES?!
Melanie plays Sheri (pronounced “Cheri,” as in the French pronunciation) Campari, the overbearing backstage mother of two daughters, one whom she lives through vicariously on the ballroom dance floor, and the other who is relegated to the role of “practice partner.” See what happens to each as they redefine their roles in life and on the dance floor and learn to “Let Love Lead.™”
So You Think You Can Dance fans will see some more familiar faces in the film, as season two winner, Benji Schwimmer, joins Melanie on screen as her daughters’ best friend and competition dance partner (wait till you see Benji perform an amazing West Coast Swing duet with long time friend and West Coast Swing World Champion Jordan Frisbee!).
There is also a fantastic “Grocery Store Musical” number choreographed by Melanie and starring past SYTYCD finalists Courtney Galiano, Kherington Payne, Katee Shean, and Sara VonGillern!
The film has been doing extremely well on the festival circuit, screening at more than 50 festivals around the world so far and still going strong. Past highlights include a Gala Presentation at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, winner of the Showcase Award at the film’s premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival, selling out an opening weekend screening in the Directors’ Guild of America Theater on Sunset Boulevard at Outfest in LA, winning Best Picture at the Palm Beach Women’s International Film Festival, screening at the Marché du Film at the Cannes International Film Festival, and most recently winning the Audience Choice award for Best Narrative Feature at the San Francisco United Film Festival right after screening to nearly 900 people in the historic Castro Theater at Frameline International Film Festival.
The film has been picked up for North American distribution by Wolfe, and will be released on DVD and VOD in the U.S. on Sept. 13, 2011. Click the image of the DVD to pre-order your copy from the Wolfe website!
You can also visit the Leading Ladies website to find out where film is playing next, so you can see it on the big screen in a theater near you! The website also has many video clips and photos from the film, links to merchandise, information about the film’s soundtrack, and all kinds of other fun information from and about the movie!
Finally, don’t forget to add the film to your Netflix Queue by visiting this link and adding Leading Ladies to your queue!
Get your fill of So You Think You Can Dance stars in the new ballroom-inspired movie Leading Ladies, set to release on DVD September 13 from Wolfe Video. The movie follows the Camparinis, a ballroom dancing family whose lives get turned upside down when one sister gets pregnant, another comes out of the closet, and a zany, over-the-top stage mom starts to lose it in her pursuit for the family to take the titles at the Midwest Regional Ballroom Competition.
Leading Ladies features many recognizable names, a flashback of sorts into SYTYCD history. Ballroom diva and SYTYCD choreographer Melanie LaPatin, as well as Season 2 winner Benji Schwimmer, snagged leading roles in the film. Making cameo appearances are Katee Shean, Kherington Payne, Courtney Galiano, and Sara Von Gillern.
The feature toured 45 different film festivals and won numerous awards — the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2011 San Francisco United Film Festival, the "Showcase Award" from the 2010 Sonoma International Film Festival, "Best Feature" at the 2010 Palm Beach Women’s International Film Festival and "Best of the Fest" at the 2010 Newfest.
We can’t wait to check it out on DVD in September! Look for it on Amazon.
Yes, you will be able to purchase the DVD at Amazon, but please buy using this link (a much bigger percentage of the sale goes to the cast and crew!). You can also purchase from the official Leading Ladies website.