BWW Interview: Shannon Connolly of LUCKY STIFF at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
What would you do for 6 million dollars? Lucky Stiff follows the hilarious story of shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon, who has the opportunity to inherit 6 million dollars. But first he has to complete some bizarre tasks, including taking a corpse on a trip to Monte Carlo. Based on the novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth, Lucky Stiff was first produced Off-Broadway in 1988. While it never made its way to Broadway, it did enjoy success in London's West End. Now Lucky Stiff can be seen at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre through March 16th. We spoke with Shannon Connolly, who will be taking the stage as Rita LaPorta.
BWW: Tell us a little about yourself.
Connolly: I was born and raised in central New Jersey. When I'm not traveling to perform, I still live there. I've been working as a professional performer for the last ten years and have spent about 7 years working with the Prather Entertainment Group. When I'm not on a stage, I usually live a pretty boring life. I just hang out with my boyfriend, Frank Hughes, who plays Luigi in Lucky Stiff.
BWW: How did you get into acting?
Connolly: Well, I actually caught the performance bug early on as a dancer when I started lessons at 4 or 5 years old. My Dad also loves musicals, so my parents would take me to shows whenever possible. I would sing all the songs after seeing shows and realized my voice wasn't half bad. I was always part of anything that had to do with performance in school (choir, musicals, talent shows, dance team, etc.). I had to stop dance for a bit in high school because it conflicted with my school's musical rehearsals. I then decided to go to college for musical theater. I'd say I really started to understand what acting is in college because before that I was honestly a terrible actor.
BWW: What is your favorite role so far?
Connolly: That's so difficult! I have to pick two. I loved playing Vicki Nichols in The Full Monty. I got to play her in college originally, then at a summer stock a few years later. Her song "Life with Harold" is one of my favorite songs to perform. I often sing it at cabarets or other performances to this day. I also loved playing Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act. I originally played the role at the Broadway Palm (the Dutch Apple's Sister theater in Florida), then I got to revive her this past fall at the Dutch Apple. She is a character that feels everything with every piece of herself; she has the highest highs and, surprisingly, the lowest lows.
BWW: You've performed in a number of Prather Productions shows. If you could play any role in any show, what would your dream role be and why?
Connolly: I've always had a desire to play Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. She's very complicated. She is led by love; unfortunately, it leads her down a very strange and ultimately terrible path.
BWW: For readers who are not familiar with Lucky Stiff, in your own words, what is the show about?
Connolly: A man, Tony Hendon, is shot by his girlfriend, Rita (who I play), because she believes he is cheating on her. Tony, in his will, leaves six million dollars to his estranged nephew, Harry. But for Harry to get the money he must take his uncle's corpse to Monte Carlo and follow a long list of demands; like taking the body out to dinner, gambling, sky diving. If Harry doesn't follow everything to the T the six million dollars goes to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn, Tony's favorite charity. Without giving too much away, many surprises pop up and hilarity ensues when they are in Monte Carlo. We often say it's a mixture of Weekend at Bernie's and Brewster's Millions.
BWW: What is your favorite thing about the character of Rita?
Connolly: She's nuts! I have a lot in common with Rita. We're both from New Jersey. We're both blind without our glasses, or usually contacts for me. Even the wig I wear for the show is similar to my real hair, except brighter with bangs. But one big difference between us is that Rita acts before she thinks, unlike me-I think and think and think then act, if I decide to act at all. She lets me be big and broad and crazy, and it's so much fun!
BWW: What was the biggest challenge in playing a character with poor eyesight?
Connolly: I relate to Rita quite a bit in this aspect because I too have very poor eye sight. I've been wearing glasses since I was about 8, and they've only gotten thicker over time. I'm near-sighted (meaning I can't see far away) but my eyes are so bad that without my glasses I can't see anything more than about 5 inches in front of me. So, when I rehearse at home, I can take my glasses on and off to know what it's actually like to not be able to see. I think the hardest part will be all The Bruises I get from having to walk into different set pieces.
BWW: If you could only get one song from the show stuck in your head for a whole day, what song would you choose and why?
Connolly: I think I would choose "Fancy Meeting You Here" which is one of my character, Rita's, songs. It's a love song at its core, but it's so funny in the situation (but I don't want to give too much away). I randomly find myself humming phrases from it.
BWW: In your opinion, what is the funniest part of the show?
Connolly: There's a big "farce" section in Act 2. Mistaken identities, a lot of people wearing the same outfit, and doors...lots and lots of doors. I have very high hopes for this section. There's also a montage of Harry, the nephew, completing many of the tasks he must complete with his uncle. Seeing Harry and Tony's body in the wheelchair performing some of the more ridiculous activities is hilarious. I was cracking up during rehearsal watching it.
BWW: If you had six million dollars in diamonds, what would you do with them?
Connolly: Well, first I would sell a bunch of them and get the cash. Step two would be paying off my student loans. Then I guess a car, a modest house, investments. I know pretty boring. My splurge would probably be a trip to the Greek Islands, like the ones where they filmed the Mamma Mia movies.
Chase away the mid-winter blues and get your tickets for Lucky Stiff today at www.dutchapple.com.