On all counts LUCKY STIFF (by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty) meets all these criteria and I have to say that it was the funniest show I have seen in London for some time. I knew the music beforehand, having had the studio recording for some time. The CD itself is worth getting because it manages to get across a lot of the comedy of the piece which is based on the book "The Man Who Broke The Bank at Monte Carlo". It's a very silly story and you really do need to leave your brain at home before seeing it, but the pace is frantic and the laughs come thick and fast from both the book and the witty lyrics.
Director Steven Dexter (who also directed the Bridewell's superb Romance Romance last year) has not missed a trick and I got the feeling that he really loved the show and must have had a lot of fun directing and building the comedy as he and the cast rehearsed - it was often the little touches that got some of the biggest laughs!
A very strong cast was headed by Frances Ruffelle as the gawky Annabel Glick who was trying to claim the 6 million left by the now dead Uncle Anthony for the Brooklyn Dog's Home. This was an excellent performance and delivered one of the funniest lines when the audience heard her plaintively sing "...at times like these, a girl could use a......dog". Paul Baker was in superb voice as the East Grinstead shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon who was set to inherit the money if he could fulfil his dead Uncle's wishes and take him on holiday to Monte Carlo. Also after the money is Rita La Porta, played by the wonderful Tracie Bennett (last seen as Ilona Ritter in She Loves Me). This has to be the comedy performance of the year in a musical (if ever there could be a category for this in the awards ceremonies). I laughed so much that I was crying (a cliche I know, but true!) at her routine of making herself seductive after throwing away her glasses (none of this makes very much sense unless you know the show, but the glasses play an important part in the zany story). A new face to me was Alix Longman who, like many in the cast, took numerous parts but was hilarious as Dominique du Monaco, a rather tacky french cabaret singer. Her show stopping number made me laugh so much that...you've guessed it....I cried again!!!! Now in case you're thinking I'm just a big cry baby I suggest you try and see this show sometime. The sad thing is that I went on the last night and as far as I know there are no plans for it's future.
It was very cleverly and wittily designed by Gary Underwood using a set made up of playing cards, even including a plane out of control and a body in a wheelchair on a parachute!! Clearly a lot had been put into this production, the lighting by Chris Ellis was on a par with West End productions....I really hope that this is not the last we hear of Lucky Stiff.
I know that I, and most of those in the audience, must have had one of the most enjoyable nights in a theatre for a long time. Thank you Bridewell for consistently providing high quality theatre and in this case a rare gem of a show that, in my opinion, could not have been better.
A night to remember.
I approached this show knowing none of the music and only the basic plot. The reason I booked in the first place was because Frances Ruffelle was in it. Well I am so glad I saw it. This is a delightful comedy, with music which is very tuneful to the ear.
Paul Baker played Henry Witherspoon, whose inheritance of £6million will only be in his hands once he has taken his dead uncle to Monte Carlo, excellently and he worked very well with Fracnes Ruffelle as Annabel Glick who represents the dogs home which will have the inheritance if Henry fails in his task. From opposing camps they gradually unite together and the dogs home and inheritance is forgotten. Paul has a lovely voice and his facial expressions and gestures are extremely funny. Frances played the prim and proper Annabel perfectly and sang a lovely song on the lines of 'when you're down is when you need a dog' !! . Tracie Bennett played Rita, former lover of the dead uncle who had embezzelded the 6 million from her husband and blamed her brother. Tracie was excellent as the 'gun totting Rita' and has a great ability for comedy. All these characters arrive in Monte Carlo and throw in the drunk maid, flirty bellboy, the french dancer and many other larger than life characters this makes up a great show. the Bridewell was the perfect place for this show and I believe it would do very well in venues of a similar size. This is an intimate show which would be lost on a huge stage.