Based on “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” by Michael Butterworth, LUCKY STIFF dates from 1988 and is still as funny and farcical as ever. Book and lyrics are by Lynn Ahrens and music is by Stephen Flaherty, an award-winning team which is probably best known for “Ragtime.” The pair were inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2015. LUCKY STIFF is billed as a “murder mystery musical where you’ll die laughing,” and it lives up to its description. Directed by Stephen Van Dorn and produced by Catherine Gray, this musical offers the audience a rollicking laugh fest. It’s not profound – but it is fun.
Harry Witherspoon (Brandon Parrish) couldn’t be more bored with his dull, unfulfilling life as a shoe salesman. Nothing exciting ever happens to him – and then it does. Imagine his shock when he finds out that a distant American relative has left him an estate worth six million dollars. There’s just one catch (isn’t there always?) Anthony Hendon (Vito Viscuso) wants to spend a perfect week in Monte Carlo enjoying everything the city has to offer. And he wants to go with Witherspoon. Unfortunately, Hendon is Witherspoon’s benefactor, and he is very dead. By the way, their little jaunt is an iron-clad condition of the will – or the money goes to a dog shelter in Brooklyn. Since Hendon is propped up in a wheelchair - courtesy of a close friend and taxidermist - and not prone to complain, the two should have an exciting trip. What could possibly go wrong?
Almost immediately, interested parties begin to line up, including Hendon’s shady wife Rita LaPorta (Rory Patterson) and pretty, staid Annabel (Claire Adams), who represents the shelter for wayward dogs. What sounded like a simple task – and maybe even some fun – turns into something very different as mistaken identities and misplaced corpses start to pile up.
The play is set in the 1980’s – and the cast and crew do a great job of resurrecting life in that era. Lex Gernon’s scenic design is flexible, and scenic changes abound. Vicki Conrad’s costumes, Krys Fehervari’s hair and makeup design, and Nicholas Acciani’s props keep the action authentic; and the entire production team does a great job of assembling big musical numbers on a small stage. And let’s not forget the delightful contributions of musical director Taylor Stephenson and choreographer Julie Hall – without them we wouldn’t have much of a musical production.
The talented cast, helmed by skilled director Stephen van Dorn, does a clever, fast-moving job of pulling off this bit of fluff with panache. LUCKY STIFF is light-weight but lots of laughs. It won’t provoke any deep thought or controversy, but it will entertain and make for a melodic evening.
LUCKY STIFF runs through June 18, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays (with Saturday matinees added for May 20 and June 17 at 2:30 p.m.) The David Schall Theatre is located at 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, CA (on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood). Tickets range from $25 to $34. For information and reservations, call 323-462-8460 or go online.