Review: ‘Lucky Stiff’ at Colonial Players of Annapolis

Colonial Players’ production of Lucky Stiff is a fun romp of a musical. First performed in 1988, with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, this production, directed by Eric Hufford, features excellent comic timing and delivery with wonderful singing and dancing. It is an uplifting show well suited for this dreary spring.

Reed Sigmon, Dave Carter, and Isabella Lopez in Lucky Stiff. Photo courtesy of Colonial Players of Annapolis.

Reed Sigmon plays Harry with just the right amount of timidity, considering his situation. Standing to inherit six million dollars if he accompanies his dead uncle’s body to Monte Carlo, he agrees, terrified and unsure of himself at first, but slowly coming out of his shell and enjoying the experience. His anguish at his boring life comes out clearly in “Mr. Witherspoon’s Friday Night.” In “A Woman in My Bathroom” he kneels in front of Tony’s body (Dave Carter), begging for advice on love. He is filled with joy in “Good to Be Alive,” leaping on the stage.

Isabella Lopez portrays Annabel with an air of quietness. If Harry doesn’t fulfill his part of the will, she, working for Tony’s favorite charity, gets the money. Following him relentlessly, their mutual dislike of each other makes for great laughs. Her passion for her work comes through in “Dogs vs You,” leaving nothing for Harry. In “Times Like This,” watching Harry enjoy himself at a nightclub, she wistfully thinks of the joys of companionship – the canine kind. Her duet with Sigmon in “Nice” is fun to watch, as their feelings for each other change during the song, from annoyance to something more.

Allie Dreskin is a hoot as Rita, Tony’s lover and the wife of a casino owner missing a lot of money. With a thick New York accent, she sings of her predicament in “Rita’s Confession.” In “Fancy Meeting You Here,” she crawls around the bed and kneels at Tony, trying to seduce him again. Her pursuit of Harry and Annabel for the money is hilariously done. Brandon Dietrick gives lots of nervous energy to Vinnie, Rita’s brother who’s roped into her schemes. He adds visual comedy to the yelping and running around, especially in his final entrance.

Dave Carter gives a remarkable performance as Tony, staying perfectly still in his wheelchair in the madness around him. At one point a maid (Jeanne Louise) drapes a sheet over him, wheeling him away. His first appearance had the audience rolling in the aisles.

Gene Valendo plays an Emcee, singing “Monte Carlo!” as a lounge act in a French accent. He also plays a nun and a Texan with great comedy. Grant Scherini also plays multiple roles, including a Punk staggering around the stage and an officious French Bellhop. Jeanne Louise plays the Cockney Landlady, as well as a drunken maid in a hilarious scene.

Debra Kidwell gives Dominique a vibrant energy. Full of passion, she helps bring Harry out of his shell with “Speaking French” in which she shakes and sings. Hannah Hall and Kirsti Dixon are a visual treat as the dancers, also helping move Tony and Harry in scuba diving and parasailing.

Gene Valendo, Jeanne Louise, Grant Scherini, and Reed Sigmon in Lucky Stiff. Photo courtesy of Colonial Players of Annapolis.

The stage, with Terry Averill as set designer, is cleverly done. Painted in the middle of the stage is a giant roulette wheel, with several white marble boxes at the edges. These boxes are stacked to become stages or the foundation of a bed. A kitchen stove and a desk appear onstage for a while as well, as do colorful folding chairs. Terry Averill does a great job as properties designer, providing half-doors, laundry bins, wheelchairs, and a gun.

Costume Designer Drea Lynn gets each character’s outfit just right. Harry first appears in a white button-down shirt with grey slacks and suspenders. Later he wears khaki pants with a white shirt and a multi-colored sweater. Annabelle wears a long black skirt with a purple shirt and a tan trench-coat. Rita wears a dark pink shirt, a short black skirt, and black high heels, later wearing a French maid’s outfit. Tony looks dapper in a blue and white striped suit, white shirt, and a tan fedora.

Frank A. Florentine as lighting designer and Wes Bedsworth as lighting programmer use lighting in creative ways, giving the stage a festive casino atmosphere, occasionally throwing in flashing colored lights. For one number, the light turns a dark green, making it seem even spookier. Kaelynn Bedsworth and Caitlin Weller as sound designers add to the atmosphere with elevators dinging, dogs barking, and gunshots ringing.

Emily L. Sergo does a great job as musical director, blending the music well with the actors’ singing. The songs always have at least an edge of humor about them, even if some are wistful, like “Times Like This,” or from a nightmare like “Welcome Back, Mr. Witherspoon.” “Good to be Alive,” which finishes both acts, is a fun, joyous number.

Lindsay Zetter does a fantastic job as choreographer. The cast makes excellent use of all parts of the stage. In “Something Funny’s Going On,” which starts both acts, they circle the stage. In “Him, Them, It, Her,” the actors rush through revolving half-doors and elevators, trip into a laundry bin, and chase each other madly in a hilarious farce. In “Welcome Back, Mr. Witherspoon” they circle Harry’s bed, taunting him in a nightmare. The complex dancing and movement seems natural and easy.

Eric Hufford does a wonderful job as director. The actors easily navigate the stage and each other. Full of energy, they hit all the right comedic moments, as well as the more tender, emotional ones. The comic timing works perfectly, especially the sudden entrances. Everything comes together for a night of pure, funny, entertaining musical theater. This is a show to make you feel “Good to be Alive!”

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with a 20-minute intermission.

Lucky Stiff plays through May 6, 2018, at Colonial Players of Annapolis – 108 East Street in Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-268-7373, or purchase them online.