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San Francisco by Richard Connema

A Fun Production of
Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens' Lucky Stiff

Also see Richard's review of Barbara Cook and Veronica Klaus

What a pleasure to revisit the early Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahren musical, Lucky Stiff. I first saw the show in 1990 in a production by a small, now defunct theatre company in Walnut Creek and I fell in love with the quirky little show. In 1997 I saw a full scale West End production starring Frances Ruffelle, Paul Baker and Tracie Bennett. The current Center Repertory of Walnut Creek production is just as good as the London one, if not better.

Flaherty and Ahrens' score is more workmanlike than memorable, but it is fun, and director Robert Barry Fleming, along with a splendid cast of singer/actor/dancers, presents an excellent evening of pleasurable entertainment.

Lucky Stiff is good stuff with a zany book by Lynn Ahrens. A young man is set to inherit six million dollars if he agrees to take his late uncle's corpse on all-expense paid vacation to Monte Carlo. Others are vying for the salacious inheritance, which turns the trip into an all-out comic free-for-all. There's a romance in there also, and a few surprises at the end that I won't tell you about.

This is the kind of material that could dissolve in the wrong hands, but Fleming, who also choreographs, has the cast on their toes and each has the right comic pitch and expert timing.

Keith Pinto (Fly by Night at TheatreWorks) is perfect for the role of Harry Witherspoon, the unhappy shoe salesman who is about the inherit the fortune. Pinto has the right wholesome looks and terrific vocal cords singing "Lucky" and "Mr. Witherspoon's Friday Night." He also has comic stage presence. Dani Marcus (Musical of Musicals! The Musical and Emma) is a real enchanter as Annabel Glick, who is also out to claim the money—which she wants to use for a stressed dog shelter. Her vocal chops shine on "Times Like This."

Lynda DiVito is hilarious as Rita La Porta, the murderous mafia mistress, and has a powerhouse voice sounding a lot like the late Ethel Merman on "Rita's Confessions" and "Fancy Meeting You Here." Benjamin Pither as the optometrist Vincent also seeking the fortune gives a bang up performance with strong vocal cords singing "Good to be Alive" and "The Phone Call." Taylor Jones is tantalizing as a saucy French entertainer in the Monte Carlo numbers, and Marcus Klinger makes the perfect M.C. in the Vegas-type scenes. Colin Thomson gives a zestful performance as Luigi Gaudi. Also, kudos to Tielle Baker and Evan Boomer who handle an assortment of small roles with flair. Last but not least is the humorously troublesome corpse played by Joe Roster, in a wheelchair throughout the whole show.

Musical director Brandon Adams' quintet solidifies the melodies with mesmeric accuracy. Kelly Tighe has created a wonderful set filled with doors and wall panels which is flawless for farcical chases. Costumes are terrific, especially the outfit worn by Taylor Jones in the "Monte Carlo!" number.

Lucky Stiff runs through October 7 at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. For tickets call 925-943-7469) or on line at www.centerrep.org. Coming up next at Center Rep is The Underpants opening on October 19th and running through November 17th.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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