TR Robertson – If you are looking for something to take your mind off rising gas and food prices and political rhetoric then you need to see Oceanside Theatre Company’s latest production at Brooks Theater, “Lucky Stiff”. This over-the-top farcical musical murder mystery with a twisted plot will bring enough chuckles and giggles to your evening to give you a break for your day. This musical comedy, written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, premiered in 1988 Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. This talented duo also teamed up to bring “Once on this Island”, “Ragtime” and Seussical” to the stage. It is partially based on the 1983 crime novel by Michael Butterworth, “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” and will remind you a little of the caper surrounding the 1989 movie “Weekend at Bernie’s”. The musical comedy was also produced as a movie in 2015.
This cleverly designed musical comedy is directed by Kathy Brombacher, the Founding Producing Artistic Director of Moonlight Stage Productions. Along with a veteran Creative Team and a perfectly cast group of eleven singer/actors those attending are taken through a fast paced perfectly timed musical farce. It is obvious these actors are having a great time on stage as the audience can feel the high energy of their performance on stage. Many of the performers play a variety of odd-ball characters such as nosey apartment neighbors, to a drunken hotel maid, to a stuffy lawyer, to an upset secretary, to an exuberant cabaret entertainer, to a boisterous casino cabaret emcee and more.
The premise of the musical comedy involves a bored, dull British shoe salesman, Harry Witherspoon, who receives a telegram telling him his American Uncle Anthony has died and left him money. Meeting with a lawyer who goes over Uncle Anthony’s will, Harry is told he will receive $6 million if he takes his dead Uncle Anthony, in his wheelchair, to the French Riviera city and casino of Monte Carlo. Harry agrees and off he goes only to find out he is being tailed by a Brooklyn canine shelter worker and Uncle Anthony’s former mistress and her mild-mannered optometrist brother who also want the $6 million from Uncle Anthony’s estate. It is in Monte Carlo where things go a little crazy as Harry tries to complete every prepaid adventure Uncle Anthony had arranged while negotiating the efforts of the people tailing him as they try to find ways to separate Harry from his uncle and the money. A mysterious red box Uncle Anthony is holding will also fit into the mystery as well.
The key to this musical farce is the actors comedic timing and ability to handle the fast paced nature of the performance. Clever use of movable wall set pieces, doors opening and closing with characters appearing and disappearing with a little bit of slap stick thrown in, all are major factors into making this musical successful. A perfect example of this occurs in “Him, Them, It, Her”, involving numerous performers. This veteran cast, with numerous theatrical productions on their resumes, make this fun musical a delight to see. Not to be forgotten is an amazing vocal range each of the cast members have for the numbers they perform.
Cody Ingram plays the worldly naive Brit Harry Witherspoon and Kelly Derouin plays Annabel Glick who works for a Brooklyn canine shelter set to close because of funding. Both perform a number of songs together with voices that blend perfectly. The song Kelly sings, “Times Like This”, brings a laugh when the key to the song is her preferring to be with a dog more than anyone else. Playing the frantic former mistress Rita La Porta is Erica Marie Weisz and she is a standout in this role, along with a powerful singing voice, especially shown in “Rita’s Confession”. Rita’s mild-mannered optometrist brother Vinnie is played by Kenny Bordieri, who gets funnier in the musical as things get more chaotic, as shown in his phone call to his significant other, in “Phone Call”.
Playing Luigi Gaudi is Ted Leib the Artistic Director for OTC. Luigi is the meddling Italian who always seems to be trying to assist Harry in reaching the goals Uncle Anthony wanted to accomplish in Monte Carlo. Olivia Pence plays a number of roles for the musical and is wonderful as Dominique the cabaret singer/dancer, especially in the number “Speaking French”.
Other cast members include Beatrice Crosbie (Landlady/Dance Captain), Audrey Ward (Ensemble), Bob Himlin (Solicitor), and Bryce Nicastro (Bellhop/Ensemble). An audience favorite is Ralph Johnson who played the deceased Uncle Anthony, referred to as Man in The Wheelchair in the program, you must see the musical to know why. Ralph has appeared, in the past 33 years, in over 100 theatrical productions. As Uncle Anthony he spent the majority of the evening in a wheelchair, dressed in a pinstripe suit, hat and sunglasses. In previous press coverage he said acting was still a major concern in this role as he had to occasionally slowly tip over and continually have his head and arms lifted and moved to different positions, all while still playing dead. He did receive a round of applause when he walked out in a nightmare dance routine, joining the cast in an abbreviated can-can.
Director Kathy Brombacher’s Creative Team included Choreographer Valerie Clark, Stage Manager Charmaine Reed, Scenic Designer Alyssa Kane, Props Designer Dan Long, Costume Designer Marcene Drysdale, Wigmaster Francia Cohen, Spotlight Operator Star Sanders, and Audio Mixer Geronimo Omabtang. One key member of the Creative Team is Musical Director Terry O’Donnell who plays the piano for all 20 musical pieces. O’Donnell has served as musical director, conductor, or pianist for most of the regional theatres in San Diego County and is the founding faculty member of the SDSU Master of Fine Arts Musical Theatre degree program.
“Lucky Stiff” will be on stage at the Brooks Theatre, at 217 N. Coast Highway in Oceanside, until March 19th. Tickets can be purchased at 760-433-8900 or go to www.Oceansidetheatre.org. You will enjoy the laughs, enjoy the performances and enjoy the music. Next up for Oceanside Theatre Company is “Good People” beginning May 12th.