BWW Review: LUCKY STIFF Stylishly Executed Musical Souffle
LUCKY STIFF is a musical farce with lyrics and libretto by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, that is notable historically for several things. To begin with, It was the first collaboration for the team whose later collaborations include Ragtime and Once On This Island. It was created and performed at Playwrights Horizons off-Broadway in 1988, and won the Richard Rodgers Award for that year. LUCKY STIFF is based on a 1983 novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth. It received a full production in London's West End in 1997 but, to date, has never had a Broadway production. In 2015, a film version was created but it has only been seen at film festivals.Ten characters form a quasi-Greek Chorus to inform the audience of the wacky plot twists to come. There's not much meat on this piece and to succeed, the piece requires a director and choreographer with a deft hand who knows how to treat this musical souffle so that it soars rather than lands with a thud. I'm pleased to be able to report that Austin Playhouse has just such a helmsman in Michael McKelvey. McKelvey's direction and music direction are both deft and stylish and when combined with the clever choreography of Danny Herman and Rocker Verastique make for a charming evening of light entertainment. The eleven company members here all shine and are wonderfully over the top. Scott Shipman is perfect as the reluctant hero and has a great onstage chemistry with Molly Karrasch. Bernadette Nason, Jess Hughes, Chase Brewer and Stephen Mercantel are hilarious in multiple roles and just about walk away with the whole show tucked nearly under their arms. However, it is Rocker Verastique as The Body who gives an inspired performance that you won't soon forget. I'd go see this again just to watch his performance. The costumes by Pamela Friday and Teresa Carson are lovely and Mike Toner's minimalistic set works perfectly in support of the piece. Chris Conard's lighting sets mood and space with flair and Lowell Bartholomee's video design fleshes out Toner's set nicely. There are comparisons that can be made to the film Weekend At Bernie's; however, this musical preceded that film by a year. While there's no deep message here, LUCKY STIFF is a good time and a pleasant way to spend a night out. Catch this one while you can
LUCKY STIFF by Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music).
Running Time: Approximately Two Hours including intermission
LUCKY STIFF is produced by Austin Playhouse (6001 Airport Boulevard, Austin, TX, 78752). Performances are May 25 - June 24, 2018, Thursdays-Sundays, Perform are at 8 PM, except for Sunday's which are at 5 PM.
For tickets and more information, call 512-476-0084 or visit the Austin Playhouse website.