Review: ‘Lucky Stiff’ at Silhouette Stages at Slayton House

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The musical Lucky Stiff with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty opened March 10, 2017, at Silhouette Stages and performed at Slayton House in Columbia, MD, under the direction of Conni Trump Ross. This fast-paced production lives up to the exceptional reputation of Silhouette Stages as it takes you on a hilarious romp from a shoe store in England to the casinos of Monte Carlo.

Left to Right: Rob Wall, Mike Cornell, Becca Hanauer, and Lisa Sharpe. Photo courtesy of Silhouette Stages.

The story, based on The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, by Michael Butterworth, is a typical British farce. The plot is full of complications and twists and  everything is set to bright and witty music.

A nondescript shoe salesman in England, struggling just to get by, finds out his American uncle, Tony, who he never met, has left him six million dollars. The only catch is his uncle’s body, now dressed and in a wheelchair, must be taken to Monte Carlo or the money reverts to his favorite charity, The Universal Dog Home. So, off goes Harry Witherspoon (Rob Wall) to Monte Carlo where he discovers he is being stalked by a young woman, Annabel Glick (Maddie Bohrer), from the dog shelter to make sure he complies with the conditions of the will. Unbeknownst to them is the uncle’s ex-lover, Rita La Porta (Kristin Zwobot), and her brother Vinnie (Don Patterson), an optometrist who is unwittingly dragged into the mayhem by his sister. They are trying to recover Tony’s fortune.

Wall is perfection as Witherspoon. His shoe salesman is everyman, and I immediately loved the character. His voice has wide range whether singing, “Mr. Witherspoon’s Friday Night” or “Good to Be Alive”.

Bohrer also is very comfortable in her role as the do-gooder, but lonely, Annabel. Bohrer is able to keep her sweet and, yet, still uptight. She also can be very comical, and her rendition of “Dogs vs. You” is hilarious.

Michael Cornell and Kristen Zwobot. Photo courtesy of Silhouette Stages.

Zwobot’s Rita catches the tough New Jersey accent and demeanor and is a large source of the laughter of this show. And what a voice! I was most captured by her description of her crime with the musical piece, “Rita’s Confession.” However, one of the best numbers in Lucky Stiff is her duet with her brother Vinnie, convincingly played by Patterson, called “The Phone Call.” Their timing is impeccable. Patterson delivers my favorite line of the show: “You can only push an optometrist so far.”

The supporting cast is Todd Hochkeppel (Luigi Gaudi), Alyssa Bell (Dominique Du Monaco), and Bill Pond as the Emcee. All of them give standout performances. Even Michael Cornell, as the dead Tony Hendon, manages to get several laughs.

What makes Silhouette Stage unique is always the high level of performances they get from their Ensemble, and Lucky Stiff is no exception. Kudos go to Angie Townsend, Rebecca Hanauer, Lisa Sharpe, Neal Townsend, Alex Frazier, Doug Thomas, Bailey Wolf, Ande Kolp, and Stephanie Jo Clark. They act like a Greek Chorus at the opening and at the beginning of Act II, belting out “Something Funny’s Going On.” Some other notable ensemble tunes were “Mr. Witherspoon” and the nightmarish, “Welcome Back Mr. Witherspoon.” The comical mime bit is also one I will laughingly remember.

With a fast-paced farce like this, direction is very pivotal. Ross does a magnificent job moving her actors around, and having perfect timing to keep the comedy flowing. William Georg’s Musical Direction is also a important part of this finely-tuned machine. The songs tell a story and he never misses a beat in getting it out to the audience. The choreography, by Tina DeSimone, is on a professional level.

I cannot say enough about the set design by Douglas Thomas. His modular pieces take us from shoe store, to English flat, to optometrist’s office, to train/plane, to hotel room, to seaside, to airport, to cabaret, to casino, and finally hallway. This all happens under the Stage Management of Donna Hawkes who makes it all go quickly and effortlessly. Justin Thillman’s Lighting Design is equally important and also appeared flawless.

Lucky Stiff has numerous costume changes, and Costume Designer Linda Swann does a marvelous job dressing nightclub entertainers and an ordinary shoe salesman. However, the piece-de-resistance is a dress that actually is a roulette wheel. The Sound Design by Alex Porter is also exemplary.

You must make time to get to Slayton House to see Lucky Stiff. The odds are in your favor that you will have an uproarious time!

Running Time: Two hours, with an intermission.

Lucky Stiff plays through Sunday, March 26, 2017, at Silhouette Stages performing at Slayton House Theatre in Wilde Lake Village Center— 10400 Cross Fox Lane, in Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 637-5289, or purchase them online.

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