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The Play-Goer: Colonial Players’ Lucky Stiff

If you need a few laughs — and who doesn’t — grab your ticket 

photo by Colburn Images Harry Witherspoon (Reed Sigmon, left) and Annabel Glick (Isabella Lopez, right) vie for a $6 million inheritance based on providing an all-expenses-paid trip to Monte Carlo for dead guy Tony (David Carter) in this comic charmer.

         Colonial Players’ Lucky Stiff, a musical and comic charmer, is organized chaos. It takes precision to do comedy right. Director Eric Hufford’s production is laugh-out-loud funny not just because of the material — c’mon, if you read a story about a dead guy being shown around Monaco in a wheelchair, would you have laughed? — but because Hufford and his multi-talented, multi-character cast of 12 bring the story to life in sidesplitting ways large and small. Wielding big and sexy dance number choreography and ridiculously simple comedic props, the players are having the time of their lives — and so is the audience.

         Harry Witherspoon (Reed Sigmon) is a sad-sack shoe salesman in England, whose American Uncle Tony, whom he’s never met, has died and left him $6 million. The legacy carries a condition: Harry must take Tony’s body (David Carter, complete with permanent deadpan face and Raggedy Andy body), dressed, in a wheelchair and ready to go, on an all-expenses paid vacation to Monte Carlo. If Harry doesn’t stick with the plan, each step outlined by Tony’s voice on a cassette player (this is the late 1980s after all), then the money goes to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn.

         From parasailing and scuba diving to casino games and fine dining, Tony does it all, with Harry at his side. Tagging along to make sure everything is done exactly as the cassette dictates is Annabel Glick (Isabella Lopez) from the dog home, ready to pounce on the $6 million with any misstep.

         Tagging along more sneakily are Atlantic City optometrist Vinnie di Ruzzio (Brandon Dietrick) whose sight-deficient sister Rita LaPorta (Allie Dreskin) has accidentally shot her lover Tony, the manager of her husband’s casino. She confesses to Vinnie that she embezzled $6 million dollars in diamonds from her husband and blamed the embezzlement on Vinnie, who now has a contract on his life.

         It all goes by in a flurry, but thanks to Hufford’s clever staging and Lindsay Zetter’s choreography it’s a lot easier to follow on the stage than on the page.

         While Hufford’s cast has clearly worked their manic comedic timing down to the second, there are nicer moments as well. Sigmon and Lopez are a perfect pair. He nervously wonders how he has gotten into this mess but learns to have a good time along the way. She puts on a brave face as the tough girl holding him to his uncle’s taped instructions, yet clearly softens as they wade through the thicket of crusty characters and circumstances together. Both are fine actors with pleasant voices, put to touching effect on comic as well as romantic numbers. They anchor with aplomb the mania that orbits them.

         The cast of characters swirling about that mania is a hoot. Dreskin’s Rita is loud and demanding, with a confident knowledge in how to deliver not just a line, but also a look. Dietrick’s Vinnie is a suitably nervous ninny. The rest of the cast show up in various character guises. Jeanne Louise hilariously moves from nasty landlord to drunken maid; Rick Estberg is self-appointed guide Luigi, with a surprise; Gene Valendo takes on an emcee and an old Texan; Grant Scherini is comically physical as a bellhop and a punk. Debra Kidwell is sexy as leggy Dominique and dowdily funny as a spinster. Hannah Hall and Kirsti Dixon round things out as featured dancers playing several nicely choreographed roles, including a very cleverly realized human roulette wheel.

         Music director Emily Sergo has done a fine job creating a blend out of 12 disparate voices. The technical aspects of the show accompany the zaniness, from Frank Florentine’s colorful moving lights to Drea Lynn’s quick-change costumes, Charlotte Robinson’s comedic props and Terry Averill’s roulette wheel floor and flexible set.

         Despite not being a very well-known show, Lucky Stiff opened to a sellout, so the word is out that Hufford and company have a hit on their hands. That means more sellouts are dead ahead, so don’t roll the dice. If you need a few laughs — and who doesn’t — then grab your ticket.

 

Music director: Emily Sergo. Choreographer: Lindsay Zetter. Lighting designer: Frank Florentine. Costume designer: Drea Lynn. Props: Charlotte Robinson. Sound designers: Kaelynn Bedsworth and Caitlin Weller.

About two hours, with one intermission. ThFSa 8pm, Su 2pm thru May 6: 108 East St., Annapolis, $23 w/discounts, rsvp: www.tickets.thecolonialplayers.org.