The Union Theatre’s revival of Lucky Stiff, the first collaboration between longtime writing partners Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, might seem like a typical musical comedy – or farce, in this case – yet subverting conventions it even allows for character development in this charming production directed by Paul Callen.
Our awkward shoe-salesman hero, Harry Witherspoon, has been fortunate enough to inherit six million dollars from his recently deceased uncle. But, in order to receive the estate, he must take his uncle’s corpse around Monte Carlo. The exposition is slow, but these characters are more than just funny stereotypes. This textbook show breaks the rules too.
” It sets out to amuse us, and it succeeds”
Once the plot finally starts gaining momentum, the piece becomes a true delight. With a snap shift in lighting and a slick scene change, aided by angular and dynamic lighting and doorways (designed perfectly by Sam Waddington and Rueben Speed), bright characters whizz on and off stage without the stuffiness of cumbersome sets and wings. However, this is both a blessing and a curse. The result is thrilling, but most of the Monte Carlo that the musical evokes is left to our imagination, suggested only by costumes and abstract décor.
The twelve-strong cast is a tightly knit ensemble, each worthy of a mention. Our two protagonists, played by Tom Elliot Reade and Natasha Hoeberigs are an unlikely pair, even in their resolution, but it is Natasha that really shines as a the plucky representative of the Universal Dog Home. Other standouts include Daniel Urch as bellboy-com-emcee crooner, Ian McCurrach as the eponymous ‘stiff’, and Natalie Moore-Williams as the brassy and blind Rita La Porter.
On the whole, this is a stellar production. The jagged shapes of the set and choreography (the latter by Jamie Neale) only add to the zaniness and naiveté of the show. It sets out to amuse us, and it succeeds.
Image: Scott Rylander