Gusta Johns, Daniel Patrick Smith, Craig Capone (standing), Glenn Anderson and Jen Means. Photo courtesy of Good Theater

In need of an escape from the mundane?  The Good Theater is closing out its 17th season with a romp to Monte Carlo in “Lucky Stiff.” Murder, mayhem and madcap merriment mingle in this vivre la vie-themed musical farce that gives an all new meaning to the phrase “mad dogs and Englishmen.”

Harry Witherspoon (Daniel Patrick Smith) is a shoe salesman living a humdrum life in London. His nosey neighbors think he’s an idiot, and his busybody landlady (Jen Means) owns a pack of dogs that attack him daily. Harry’s life is so pathetic that he envies the shoes he sells. “Ten million shoes going off on an adventure and one shoe salesman going home,” he laments in the song “Mr. Witherspoon’s Friday Night.”

Out of the blue, a telegram arrives from a solicitor (John Lanham). His uncle Tony (Glenn Anderson) from New Jersey, who Harry has never met, has died and left him $6 million. The catch? Harry must take his uncle’s embalmed corpse on vacation to Monte Carlo for the time of his (after) life and follow his recorded instructions exactly. If Harry doesn’t, the money will go to Tony’s favorite charity, the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn.

Harry seizes the opportunity and trades his stiff upper lip for his uncle’s stiff and boards a train for Monte Carlo. He has no idea that his uncle’s trigger-happy lover Rita LaPorta (Lynne McGhee), her mob-marked brother Vinne Di Ruzzio (Mark Rubin) and a doggedly determined Annabel Glick (Shannon Thurston) are following close on his heels.

“Lucky Stiff” is a collaboration between Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the team behind such musicals as “Ragtime” and “A Man of No Importance.” Director Brian P. Allen has assembled a delightful cast to bring the ridiculous farce to life, with musical director Victoria Stubbs lending musical accompaniment.

Many Good Theater patrons will recognize lead Smith as one of the stars featured in the last three years of “Broadway at Good Theater.” The vibrant actor starred as Buddy in the National Tour of “Elf the Musical,” and it’s easy to visualize him in the role.  He lights up the Good Theater stage with a boyish charm, priceless facial expressions and a voice that is a sheer pleasure to listen to, no matter how silly the song lyrics. He is beautifully showcased on “A Woman in My Bathroom,” as well as the duets “Dogs Versus You” and “Nice,” sung with Shannon Thurston.

Like Smith, Thurston is full of expression as the dog-loving Annabel Glick.  Her beautifully melodic, powerful vocals capture her character’s tender-hearted determination.

The musical is packed with colorful characters that keep the laughs coming. Lynne McGhee and Mark Rubin top the list as Rita and Vinne  The pair play off each other with comic ease as their characters bumble their way through the outrageous plot and ever-changing set by scenic artists Nathan Hall and Trina Bellavance. McGhee is a smile-inducing sight in a leopard print outfit by costume designer Justin Cote, and Rubin is unforgettable dressed as a French maid.

Lanham, Means and Conor Riordan Martin each take on various roles, with a variety of accents and personalities that are a never-ending source of entertainment. They are willing to do anything, and they do!

Craig Capone, Gusta Johnson and Anderson round out the cast as the mysterious Luigi Gaudi, a vivacious showgirl named Dominique Du Monaco and uncle Tony’s show stealing corpse. Kudos to Anderson for never cracking a smile amidst all the zany antics.

“Lucky Stiff” is an engaging musical with plenty of farcical plot twists and turns to keep the audience guessing and smiling. Good Theater’s production is outrageous fun and a wonderful reminder how important it is to roll the dice and live life to the fullest.

 

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco.  Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle