The idea of a woman passionately pleading with a man wheeling around her uncle’s dead body, singing to him on behalf of all the abused dogs in Brooklyn while in the middle of a six million dollar high-speed chase. , perhaps, why many people tend to label musical theater as “unrealistic”. But luckily, apparently on behalf of theatergoers looking for a wild, old-fashioned night of pure fun, lucky stiff makes such a ridiculous scene that it is just the tip of the iceberg.
lucky stiff, a musical comedy by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty that runs through June 12 at Herndon’s NextStop Theater could, more or less, be called “Weekend at Bernie’s the Musical,” but it’s a much funnier, more whimsical take on the concept . The action centers on an average young shoe salesman, Harry, whose Uncle Anthony leaves him an unexpected fortune. Of course, there is a caveat. Harry can claim the money only if he takes the now-dead Uncle Anthony on one last trip to Monte Carlo. Beyond those basics, the show is hard to describe. A central and pervasive component of humor is having a wonderfully excessive amount of plot and exposition throughout, making it difficult to name every line or even character that plays a vital role. Many parts are best left as a surprise, but every ounce of this abundance fits into a two-hour runtime that includes intermission, a particularly impressive feat when you think of the numerous ridiculous escapades at the heart of the production.
Each wacky caper is framed by technical elements that add to the overall tone of silliness and fun. The lighting design (Helen García-Alton) is striking, innovative and practical at the same time. Colors illuminate the many doorframes on stage, and shadows are often used to underscore the show’s larger-than-life ridiculous plot. The scenic design (Jack Golden) is practical, with sets reappearing in new forms and functions, allowing us to imagine the ever-changing landscape of Monte Carlo as Harry and Uncle Anthony maneuver through the Christmas frivolity. However, the technical star of the show is the sound design (Evan Hoffman), which is not only expertly curated, but also perfectly synchronized with the action of the program that I had a hard time believing that each effect did not happen organically.
Lucky Stiff The cast is also, in a word, fabulous. Directed and choreographed by Robert Mintz, each actor does an excellent job of creating quirky characters, so much so that the ludicrous plot, in his hands, is clear and believable. Ben Ribler is endearing and bumbling as lead Harry Witherspoon, while Candice Shedd-Thompson leads the more histrionic charge as Rita La Porta. Shedd-Thompson is absolutely excellent in every over-the-top gesture and absurd line, with incredibly accurate voices to boot. She is a complete scene stealer. Sally Imbriano is also charming as Annabel Glick, the show’s witty one. Imbriano brings an impressive vocal range, but she also brings great timing and gravitas to her character’s more absurd moments that made me wish she had more to do comically. Of course, the ensemble absolutely shines, particularly Jeremy Crawford, whose bellman is perfectly executed from his physical comedy to delivery. The show wouldn’t be complete without their crisp, sharp vocal work (big credit to Lucia Lanave, musical director), but it’s rendered enchanting by the life and vivacity they bring to the stage.
This is the basis for Lucky Stiff attractive, and why it turned out to be such an enjoyable play. The show itself, while wonderfully absurd, isn’t anything particularly noteworthy, but with a cast of characters who give it their all, embracing the show with sincere conviction, it makes for a hilarious and engaging portrait of over-the-top musical theatre. The kind of musical theater where the melodramatic is combined with humor so that there is only one goal: to entertain. Y lucky stiff delivery This is not a show to go back to, ponder and discuss when you get in the car, but I promise you will be singing all the way home.
Duration: Two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
lucky stiff runs through June 12, 2022 at NextStop Theater Company’s Industrial Strength Theatre, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA. Tickets ($45) are available for purchase online.
COVID Safety: All patrons must be fully vaccinated and wear a mask to attend performances. NextStop’s COVID User Safety Policies are here.
By Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Directed and choreographed by Robert Mintz
Harry Witherspoon-Ben Ribler
Annabel Glick – Sally Imbriano
Rita La Porta – Candice Shedd-Thompson
Vinnie Di Ruzzio – Chris Rudy
Luigi Gaudi – Michael Reid
The Body – James Mernin
Owner/Joint – Carolyn Burke
Dominique du Monaco – Sydney Johnson
Master of Ceremonies / Ensemble – Chris Rios
Buttons/Set – Jeremy Crawford
Swing – Allison Bradbury
Swing – Patrick Payne
Director/Choreographer – Robert Mintz
Musical Director: Lucia Lanave
Scenic Designer – Jack Golden
Lighting Designer: Helen Garcia-Alton
Sound designer: Evan Hoffmann
Costume Designer – Jessica Utz
Property Designer – Sofia Quinteiro
Production Stage Manager: Sarah Strunk
Stage Manager (Rehearsal)/Cover Lead: Lindsey Jacobson
Assistant Stage Manager/Costumes: Christina McCann