Review: “Lucky Stiff” a Musical Farce from Class Act Productions in Troy, NY [Berkshire on Stage]
by Gail Burns and Larry Murray
Larry Murray: Lucky Stiff is a daring choice for Class Act Productions. From the first moment it appeared on the off-Broadway scene in 1988, just about everyone has hailed the clever lyrics of Lynn Ahrens. Who else could come up with a love song called “Nice” that starts off “It was nice hating you…” It’s little wonder she won the Richard Rodgers award for them.
Gail Burns: This is the very first musical from the Tony award-winning team of Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music) who went on to fame and fortune with Ragtime and Once on This Island. Ahrens and Flaherty were taking a course in musical theatre, and this was their final exam, if you will, the culmination of their work. This shows in its tight construction and brisk pace – I imagine that their assignment was to write a 90-minute musical, which this is, once intermission and the laughter of the audience is shaved off.
Larry: One of the toughest things in the world is writing musical farce, Stephen Sondheim did it with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. That show opens with a chorus singing “Comedy Tonight” while Lucky Stiff belts out “Something Funny’s Going On” which, appropriately enough, ends with a gunshot and a corpse, setting up the whole premise of the show.
Gail: Let me see if I can give you the essence of the fun without giving too much away. Lucky Stiff, based on the British murder mystery The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth, concerns a young British shoe salesman named Harry Witherspoon (Oliver Ord) whose lackluster life is suddenly and dramatically altered when he is left $6 million in the will of his American Uncle Anthony. But the money can only be his if he takes the corpse (Michael McDermott) on a final vacation to Monte Carlo. In hot pursuit is the rival inheritor, the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn, represented by one uptight chick named Annabel Glick (Erin Harwood). They are in turn pursued by the legally blind Rita La Porta (Katie Hughes), Uncle Anthony’s lover who believes she is also his murderess, and her hapless optometrist brother, Vinnie DiRuzzio (Brian McBride Land). Along the way they meet a mysterious Arab (Bill Depew) and a sexy French chanteuse Dominique du Monaco (Elizabeth Sterling), along with an assortment of others (Alan Angelo, Peter Caracappa, Henry DiMaria, Maria Lally Clark, Michael O’Farrell, Melissa Pelletier, and Cait Webber). Mayhem ensues! Who will get the money? Will the fact that Harry and Annabel are escorting a corpse scuba-diving and sky-diving be discovered? And what about that heart-shaped box?