Wednesday, 31 October 2001

Lucky Stiff , Oct 31, 2001

Book & Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens Music by Stephen Flaherty
At Chapel off Chapel until  November 4, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There is a corpse on stage throughout Lucky Stiff. Yes, a corpse. A live actor spends two hours playing dead in this US musical written in 1988 by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

Let me explain. In order to inherit six million dollars from his unknown American uncle's will, young Englishman, Harry Witherspoon, (Mark Doggett) must take Uncle Anthony's stuffed, dead body (Larry Hunter-Stewart) on a jaunt to Monte Carlo.

He is pursued by a peculiar collection of persons all after the money: Rita, the rapacious ex-girlfriend and accidental murderer of Uncle, (Pamela Shaw) Vinnie, her optometrist brother (Randall Berger) and a dogged young woman, Annabel, (Elizabeth O'Hanlon) supporter of a Dogs' Home.

This bizarre premise makes for really good comic business. Ahrens' lyrics and dialogue are witty and swift. Music by Flaherty derives from the US school of musicals. It is peppy and filled with singable tunes.

Rita's Confession song is a gem. The lyrics dip and dive through her complex and hilarious confession of theft, murder and blame. Shaw, a skilful and funny musical theatre performer, is delightful in the role of Rita, the over-dressed tart.

Doggett has a certain charm as the shy young shoe salesman and his light tenor voice is a treat.

As his love interest, Annabel, O'Hanlon gets all the best songs. Her Times Like This (...A Girl Could use a Dog) allows the relentless pace of this production to slow momentarily and her love duet with Doggett, Nice, is a sweet, romantic moment.

There are some cheering cameos from the chorus members, particularly Iain Murton and Greg Ross.

However, there is a tendency to over-acting and pushing the comic characters so that there is no room to breathe for an audience. But director, Luke Gallagher, keeps the pace swift. Scene changes are snappy, choruses are jolly and the choreography (Tamara Finch) is simple and effective.

The feature of this show is the musical director and sole musician, Nigel Ubrihien, He alone, on a grand piano at the side of stage, maintains the musical background and foreground of the show. He works like a Trojan and it pays off.

The show just needs to take a breath here and there.  

By Kate Herbert

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