- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Stoneham, MA - Opening their 17th season, Stoneham Theatre presents the musical murder mystery farce Lucky Stiff. It is based on the book “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” by Michael Butterworth, with music by Stephen Flaherty and book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. It is the comical story of an unhappy shoe salesman who learns that he will inherit six million dollars from his recently deceased uncle, whom he never met, if he follows his uncle’s last wishes to the letter. Little does he realize that those last wishes include a trip to Monte Carlo with his embalmed uncle, whom he must pass off as alive for the duration of the trip in order to claim the inheritance. To complicate his task even further, if he does not follow these last requests the money will go to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Directed by Caitlin Lowans, choreographed by Ilyse Robbins and music directed and conducted by Bethany Aiken, this production features a fantastic ten person cast who, with energy and excitement, bring this outlandish story to life.
The scenic design by Jon Savage was creatively utilized throughout the production. It featured walls of boxes, which at the start, seemed to only make sense in the shoe store. But as the show progressed walls were moved, hidden compartments were revealed, trap doors popped up, doors swung open to reveal the band and a bed slid out from the bottom of the main wall. The set was truly a part of the show in a refreshing and intriguing way. The cast and crew seamlessly transformed it from one scene and location to the next with simple, yet effective alterations.
The cast features Andrew Barbato as shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon who must take the corpse of his uncle on vacation to Monte Carlo. Barbato was charming, amusing and delivered solid vocals throughout the production. The body he rolls around in a wheelchair was convincingly portrayed by John O’Neil who managed to stay frozen and lifeless. He never broke his dead character by smirking when he heard something funny, or reacting when someone lifted his arms or hands or moved his head. Rita LaPorta and her brother Vinnie DiRuzzio were incredibly played by Ceit M. Zweil and Mark Linehan. Their comedic timing was spot on, their sibling relationship was believable and very funny, and their vocals were top notch. Their duet in act one: “Rita’s Confession” was supremely well done and an instant audience favorite. Linehan’s “The Phone Call”, later in act one, was hilarious. As Rita, Zweil was the quintessential New Jersey housewife, with just the right amount of seductress and feistiness paired with powerhouse vocals that made her performance one of the highlights in this production.
Annabel Glick, a representative of the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn, was sent to Monte Carlo to spy on Harry Witherspoon and to wait for him to make a mistake so her organization would get the inheritance. As played by Lizzie Milanovich, she was quirky with a dash of sass that paired nicely with Barbato’s portrayal of Witherspoon. The cast was rounded out by Thomas Derrah as Luigi Gaudi, Bryan Miner as Emcee/Ensemble, Jade Wheeler as Dominique du Monaco/ Ensemble, Samantha Richert as Landlady/Ensemble, and Stewart Evan Smith Jr. as Solicitor/Ensemble. Both Miner and Wheeler showcased their vocals in the Club Continentale with their featured musical numbers “Monte Carlo” and “Speaking French”. The ensemble was wonderful in their many different roles; as they often added to the hilarity on stage which in turn increased the laughter coming from the audience. ©
This farce is a truly enjoyable two hour escape at the theatre. Lucky Stiff plays at the Stoneham Theatre through September 25th. More information can be found at https://www.stonehamtheatre.org/lucky-stiff.html.
Photo: Nile Scott Shots
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