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Review: LUCKY STIFF at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre

Review: LUCKY STIFF at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre

You might not be familiar with the latest Dutch Apple production, Lucky Stiff. The 1988, Off-Broadway show might best be described as 2 parts Weekend at Bernie's, 1 part Brewster's Millions, with a splash of The Bucket List thrown in for good measures. Those who appreciate broad, farcical comedies will also probably enjoy this show.

The story concerns Harry Witherspoon (Robert Murray), a sad sack British shoe salesman who learns that his long-lost uncle has died and left a 6 million dollar inheritance to him. There's only one catch, and it's a big one, Harry needs to escort his dead Uncle Anthony on one last Monte Carlo vacation. Uncle Anthony is played by Craig Smith, who has the unenviable position of "playing dead" the entire show. Smith impressively handles some rough tumbling every time his wheelchair slips away. However, I equally admire his willpower to not scratch any itches the whole time. That would be a deal breaker for me!

Shannon Connolly plays near-sighted Jersey girl, Rita La Porta. Rita was Uncle Anthony's lover and accidentally caused his death. She is hot on the trail of Harry because she believes that his inheritance (or for some reason, diamonds?) is rightfully hers. She threatens her dorky optometrist brother, Vinny (Daniel Barrett) into helping her along the way.

Further complicating the plot is Annabel Glick (Megan Urz). Glick is an employee of a Brooklyn dog shelter that will inherit the full six million dollars if Harry does not dot every "i" and cross every "t" while fulfilling his uncle's last set of wishes.

If the plot sounds convoluted, that's because it is. As with most farces, there is slapstick, mistaken identity, and lots and lots of slamming doors. This show is reminiscent of some of the more fantastical sit-coms of the 1960's like I Dream of Jeanie, Mr. Ed, and The Munsters. Don't worry about logic, you will only get a headache.

Other than dead Uncle Anthony, the cast creates and maintains the intense, sustained energy needed for this type of show. Characterizations were not as strong, most were portrayed somewhat over the top and cartoony. Accents were inconsistent.

Dutch Apple's orchestra was stellar as usual. The cast, especially the chorus, blended nicely. It's a shame that the score was so mediocre. Most of the numbers were nothing more than a character singing their literal thoughts in order to advance the plot. Lucky Stiff is an early show from Lynn Ahrens and Steven Flaherty who went on to write much more accomplished fare such as My Favorite Year, Ragtime, and Seussical. Members of Generation X will also recognize Ahrens as composer of many of the classic Schoolhouse Rock episodes including "Interjections!" and "No More Kings".

Both sets (Dominic Lau) and costumes (John P. White) had a few moments to shine. The first act "bucket list scene" and the second act "nightmare scene" were especially inspired, yet I don't want to give away too many of the surprises.

Lucky Stiff offers some interesting moments in an uneven show. It will be most appreciated by those who like their entertainment silly, fast-paced, and visual. The show runs through March 16th. Next up for Dutch Apple is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Tickets and more information can be found on their website.

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From This Author - Rich Mehrenberg