8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 30
120 W. Harrison, Guthrie
$25, $22 seniors/military, $15 students
Everyone has to start somewhere.
Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, who went on to create such substantial works of musical theater as “Once on This Island” and “Ragtime,” first collaborated on the slight musical farce, “Lucky Stiff,” now being presented by Guthrie’s Pollard Theatre.
This is one of those productions where you sit there thinking, “Gee, this is a really good cast. I wish they were doing a better show.”
Based on Michael Butterworth’s novel “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo,” “Lucky Stiff” includes both sex and violence, so the title could be a double entendre. The plot involves Harry Witherspoon, an English shoe salesman who learns that he will inherit $6 million from an American uncle if he takes the deceased’s taxidermic corpse on a final fling in Monte Carlo.
Harry encounters various gangsters, oddballs and a representative of the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn, which gets the $6 million if he does not carry out the specifications of the will “ not exactly a plot that promises provocative musical theater.
Directed by Timothy Stewart, the production benefits from an experienced, capable cast. The fine actor and singer Charlie Monnot plays Harry as a vulnerable, yet likable shoe salesman who you feel deserves his unexpected good fortune. The reliable Susan Riley is Annabel Glick, the dog-home representative, an uptight, yet vulnerable woman who fills the human void in her life with canines.
The supporting cast is consistently strong. Carl Lance plays New Jersey optometrist Vincent DiRuzzio, and Rebecca Hammond is his sister, Rita La Porta. Duncan Barrett Brown plays a range of diverse characters and is spot-on every moment he’s onstage.
As chanteuse Dominique du Monaco, Jess Nichols has Act 1’s best song, “Speaking French.” Kurt Leftwich, who gets better every time I see him, is the mysterious Luigi Gaudi, and Jake DeTommaso is a hoot as a nightclub emcee with towering hair. Danielle Gendron does a fine job in various roles.
The music and book are elementary. Flaherty’s score is serviceable, if unremarkable. The second act’s “Nice” is an amusing conflict number in which two rivals-turned-lovers reflect on how they will miss fighting each other.
James A. Hughes’ schematic set design is perfectly functional and appropriate for a show that has scenes ranging from New Jersey to Monte Carlo. But lately, Pollard productions have looked a bit like a theater on a budget, lacking the depth and detail that have marked the company’s history. What is it? Artistic stagnation? Just me?
My guess is the recession, because I’ve noticed the same thing with other theater companies in the city. One feels for the directors and designers having to work under even more fiscal restraints than usual. “Larry Laneer