And Leading Ladies doesn’t just have one or two small dance numbers — it has full on choreographed musical numbers, from a Toothbrush Tango in the bathroom to a grocery store takeover performance to a massive club scene and several romantic two-steps. Luckily, Laurel was eager to learn.
"When we called Laurel to offer her the role we said it was on the condition that she would train every day before the shoot on her dime," Randall said. "Lucky for us, and the rest of the planet, she said yes and she did."
And she is convincing. The dancing is pivotal to the film’s plot, but can be a little distracting if you aren’t necessarily interested in watching 10-minute numbers. And yes, it is a coming out story, so you might feel as if you know the conflict and its ending before it’s begun. But for a small production filmed in Champaign, Illinois, where most crew members worked for free, the writing and the dancing differentiate the film from most of those you will see at the same film festivals.
Randall and her writing partner Jennifer Bechdel aimed to make a queer-friendly and family-friendly film about lesbian ballroom dancing, and that’s just what they have done.
"The script came first, but as a choreographer and a screenwriter, I think in terms of the visual and the movement and believe in the small dances of every day life," Randall said. "Dance has the ability to literally move people out of their comfort zones and into new places of thinking and feeling. Using dance as the vehicle to bring people together, both characters and audiences, seemed a natural fit for us. It’s easy to forget you are watching two men or two women together when you are overcome by the beauty and playfulness of their dancing. Suddenly, gender is erased and there are just two people in partnership. Dance rules for that."
Single mom Sheri is played by Melanie LaPatin (So You Think You Can Dance, What Not to Wear) and several other TV dance personalities make an appearance in the film, including So You Think You Can Dance stars Courtney, Katee, Sara and Kherington. Dance is now becoming so popular that these people can be recognized by their first names only, which is something that Randall is thankful for and excited about.
But it’s not only about dancing. Toni and Tasi struggle to maintain their own lives outside of their mother’s guilt and power trips, and Toni, especially, has a difficult time keeping a secret about her life. After she meets Mona at a dance club, they begin a relationship and Toni feels pressure to come out to the important people in her life. Mona is out and proud, and not willing to be pushed to the side or pretend to be a friend. The couple shares a heartfelt scene in the dance studio after Toni breaks down, unsure if she can be honest with her mom.