Sunday, April 14, 2013

Unsure And Aching To Be More: Wakefield Repertory Theatre Presents: Lucky Stiff

Lucky Stiff

Director: Samantha Gambaccini
Music Director: Shawn Gelzleichter
Choreographer: Marissa Geller

Music: Stephen Flaherty
Book and Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens

"Lucky Stiff", based on the book "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo" by Michael Butterworth, is the first musical coming from lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty.   Both have collaborated on a array of shows since this one, each more different then the last. "Ragtime", "Seussical" and "A Man of No Importance" are just a few of the shows they have cranked out.  Wakefield Repertory Theatre recently opened their production of "Lucky Stiff", so a night of theatre was in order to experience the show that started it all.

The show follows the journey of the meek Harry Witherspoon, an English shoe salesman, as he gets wrapped in an unexpected series of events. His long-lost Uncle Anthony's will dictates that Harry will inherit 6 million dollars if he takes the corpse in a wheelchair of said relative to Monte Carlo to experience the sights and sounds in this post-mortem state.  As if this premise is not enough, Uncle Anthony's jilted nearsighted lover Rita, who he abandoned before he died, hears of the inheritance and convinces her optometrist brother Vinnie to accompany her to Monte Carlo to steal back the money. As another piece to this crazy adventure, Ms. Annabel Glick, a representative of a home for dogs, follows him to make sure he meets the demands of the will or the money will be donated to her cause. Along the way, a cast of zany characters are thrown in, thus culminating in twists and turns in this ridiculous plot.

The score is by no means spectacular but it is solid.  As the show is meant to take place in the 80s, Ahrens and Flaherty don't go for the cheap, synthy pop music, but rather present a tamer and rather catchy alternative.  The music is good and creates a nice atmosphere.

Performance wise, not a lot of the actors really stood out. Whether it was a combination of the lack of energy, or the material itself, it felt that much of the cast was going through the motions.  Adam Shuler's Witherspoon had a few fun comedic moments, but it didn't seem as though he could carry the show and his character arc as well as he could have.  Annabell Glick, played by AnneMarie Alvarez was a little more engaging, but her performance at times felt flat and one dimensional. Granted, much of the book could contribute to that, but their interaction with each other was thin and not very exciting. On the flip side, Greg Cushing's Vinne and Susan Austin's Rita had many more strong comedic bits that worked very well. Their chemistry and onstage relationship was good and it was nice to see them have a little fun in their roles. Austin does a great job with the song "Fancy Meeting You Hear", hamming it up a bit, giving a nice high point to the show. Combined with a few bold and funny bits with the ensemble, performances were quite uneven. It is also possible the actors desired to do more on stage as well, as it felt that they could have pushed some performances a bit further.

Samantha Gambaccini's direction was a bit underwhelming.  There was a severe lack of decent blocking during the production.  In several moments, perhaps mostly in the first act, there was not a lot happening on stage. There were awkward moments as the actors could have been doing more.  The choreography by Marissa Geller fell short as well, as there was no real stand out moments. Granted, the show probably doesn't need a lot of choreography, but the movement was lacking in real imagination. The space the production was in was small, so in the respect of using it well, both Gambacini and Geller deserve strong marks.  Music Director Shawn Gelzleichter and his pit sounded strong, though, peeking through as a good moment for the show.  Despite a few sound issues, they sounded clean and in tandem. There was a fairly straight forward set, lighting and costume design, therefore technically it was good in some parts and uneven in others. Some moments it was unclear where people were in different scenes, but with others, whether in an apartment or on a subway, it worked well. Creatively and technically, it was hit and miss.

The show was on the brink of being a bit more, especially with a few performances and direction. There was a great deal of weaker moments that plagued the production, but a few smaller bits that managed to help the show move along. Wakefield Repertory Theatre's production of "Lucky Stiff" had some heart, but it could have easily been pushed futher.

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