Lucky Stiff

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This article is about the musical. For the 1988 film, see Lucky Stiff (film). For the 1949 film, see The Lucky Stiff.
Lucky Stiff
Music Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics Lynn Ahrens
Book Lynn Ahrens
Basis The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, 1983 novel by Michael Butterworth
Productions 1988 off-Broadway
1994 UK Premiere
1997 West End
2003 Staged Concert New York
2011 NZ Premiere

Lucky Stiff is a musical farce. It was the first collaboration for the team of Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music). The show is based on the 1983 novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth. It was created and performed at Playwrights Horizons off-Broadway in 1988, and won the Richard Rodgers Award for that year.


Lucky Stiff premiered off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizon on April 1988 for 15 performances. Directed by Thommie Walsh, the cast starred Stephen Stout as Harry, Julie White as Annabel, Stuart Zagnit as Vinnie, and Mary Testa as Rita.

The musical was produced at the Olney Theatre, Olney, Maryland, in May 1989, starring Evan Pappas as Harry.[1] It won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Musical, and Pappas won as Best Actor in a Musical.[2]

A 1994 studio cast recording included Evan Pappas as Harry, Judy Blazer as Annabel, Mary Testa as Rita, Jason Graae as Vinnie, Debbie Shapiro Gravitte as Dominique, Paul Kandel as Luigi, Patrick Quinn as the Monte Carlo Emcee/Ensemble, Barbara Rosenblatt as the Landlady/Ensemble, Mary Stout as the Spinster/Ensemble, and Bruce Winant as the Boarder/Ensemble.

In 1994, the musical had its British debut at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln in the English midlands, and in 1997 it had a West End production, directed by Steven Dexter and starring Frances Ruffelle, Paul Baker, and Tracie Bennett. It was revived for five performances as part of the York Theatre's Musicals in Mufti staged concert series in October 2003, starring Zagnit, Testa, and several of the other original Playwrights Horizons cast members, as well as Malcolm Gets as Harry and Janet Metz as Annabel.[3][4]

Lucky Stiff had its New Zealand premiere on Friday, January 27, 2011 at the Havelock Town Hall in Marlborough. The play was directed by Gillian Palmer of the Havelock Theatre Company, and starred Steven Leov as Harry and Sarah Ritchie as Annabel.



Ten characters in a quasi-Greek Chorus inform the audience of the zany plot's twists to come. One of them, a man wearing dark glasses and silk pjamas, is murdered. (Something Funny's Going On)

Act I

English shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon, is spending his Friday night taking inventory in a shoe shop, dreaming of a better life. Upon arriving at his run-down apartment, run by a mean-spirited landlady, he receives a telegram summoning him to a solicitor's office. (Mr. Witherspoon's Friday Night) There, Harry learns via a pre-recorded cassette tape that Anthony Hendon, an uncle that he never met, has left him six million dollars. However, in order to receive the estate, Harry must take the corpse of his Uncle Anthony, on an all-expenses paid "vacation" to Monte Carlo. This deceased Uncle Anthony is in a wheelchair and has been dressed to appear alive. Harry must fulfil the tasks specified by his uncle's will. If Harry is unwilling to do this, the money will go to his uncle's favorite charity, the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Harry hates dogs but reluctantly accepts the terms of the will. He travels to Monte Carlo with the cassette tape that contains his instructions, a mysterious heart-shaped box, and his uncle's corpse in the wheel chair.

Meanwhile, in Atlantic City, an optometrist, Vinnie DiRuzzio, is suddenly paid a visit by his visibly distressed, legally blind sister Rita LaPorta. She shows him an article in the newspaper, quote ... "English shoe salesman has inherited six million dollars from his casino manager uncle." Rita tells Vinnie, who is confused by the newspaper article, that due to her poor eyesight, she accidentally shot her lover Tony. Tony was the manager of her husband Nicky's casino (and Harry's dead uncle). She did this because she had suspected Tony was cheating on her. Rita explains that with the help of Tony, she has embezzled six million dollars worth of diamonds from her husband. She also explained that the heart-shaped box which contained the diamonds, has disappeared. She also confesses to her shocked brother that she has blamed this embezzlement on him. Vinnie is also informed that her husband Nicky has subsequently placed a contract on Vinnie's life. Together, they both embark for Monte Carlo to find Harry and retrieve the diamonds before Rita's husband kills Vinnie. (Rita's Confession)

On the train to Monte Carlo, Harry the English shoe salesman, encounters Luigi Gaudi, a flashy and enigmatic Italian who offers to be his tour guide. Harry also notices that a mysterious young woman is glaring at him. She is also diligently taking notes. (Good to Be Alive)

Harry arrives in Monte Carlo with his uncle. Although frustrated that he must fulfil many painstakingly specific tasks to gain his inheritance, he ultimately reasons that he is "lucky" to be there. (Lucky) Later, he notices that he is still being followed by the same young woman who he had observed on the train. He confronts her. The woman introduces herself as Annabel Glick. She appears as a pugnacious representative of the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Annabel earnestly attempts to convince Harry to donate his uncle's money to the Dog Home. Harry, who hates dogs due to his scarring experiences with his landlady's vicious dogs, flatly refuses. Annabel then militantly claims that Harry must finish every task outlined by the will in order to receive his uncle's fortune. She tells Harry that she is recording his every move to make sure that he executes flawlessly all of the conditions of the will. Harry now knows that if he makes one mistake in this mission, she will take take charge of his uncle, finish the trip, and claim the estate. Harry incensed, vows to persevere. (Dogs Vs You)

After a harrowing flight from Atlantic City, Vinnie and Rita arrive in Nice. While Rita telephones hotels in Monte Carlo in order to find where Harry is staying, Vinnie telephones his wife, Mary Alice. Vinnie informs her that he will not be home for dinner because he has been forced to travel to Monte Carlo in order to save his life. Mary Alice angrily hangs up. (The Phone Call) Rita successfully finds Harry's hotel, and books two rooms down the hall from Harry.

Meanwhile Harry and his uncle, doggedly pursued by Annabel, spend the day travelling around Monte Carlo doing what is required in the will, buying new clothes, gambling, visiting museums, skydiving, fishing, scuba diving... (A Day Around Town (Dance))

That night Harry, Annabel, and Luigi Gaudi travel to a glamorous nightclub where the nightclub's glitzy Emcee declares Monte Carlo is a place for "lovers in love". He mistakes Harry and Annabel for a couple on their honeymoon. (Monte Carlo!) The Emcee then introduces the voluptuous singer and dancer Dominique du Monaco to the crowd. She sings a flamboyant cabaret number and has everybody in the nightclub bumping. (Speaking French) After her performance Dominique speaks to Harry and tells him that his uncle has arranged for the two them to spend many hours together that night. Dominique sits next to Harry and teaches him a continental toast. Annabel thoroughly out of her element in the nightclub, claims that only a dog could bring her happiness. (Times Like This) Dominique exits the nightclub with Harry. Annabel follows. The Emcee lauds the romantic merits of Monte Carlo once again. (Monte Carlo! (Reprise))

Later Harry is having fun in the casino. Rita now disguised as a maid searches Harry's hotel room for the diamonds. Vinnie is nervous and soon leaves. Harry returns to the hotel room with Uncle Anthony. Rita hastily hides in the closet. Harry leaves the corpse in the room and says goodbye to his "Uncle Anthony" and returns to the casino to continue gambling. Harry is closely followed by Annabel. Rita is now squinting from the closet. She can barely make out the shape of the man in the wheelchair. Rita tucks away her unbecoming glasses, and steps out to face who she believes to be her still-living lover, Tony. After begging his forgiveness and declaring her continued love for him she kisses his cold hand and discovers that he is dead. (Fancy Meeting You Here)

Harry is on a winning streak at the casino due to Tony's friend's infallible system for winning roulette. Rita now livid arrives at the casino armed with a gun and Tony's corpse. She threatens to kill Harry unless he hands over the diamonds. (Act I Finale: Good to Be Alive)


The cast as a Greek Chorus briefly reminds the audience of where they left off. (Something Funny's Going On (Reprise))

Act II

Annabel and Harry, with Uncle Anthony in tow, manage to escape from Rita. In the ensuing fracas Rita's gun accidentally goes off as her brother tries to restrain her. Rita turns the crowd on Vinnie. She pursues Harry.

Chaos ensues as Harry and Annabel try to hide from Rita and protect Uncle Anthony. In the fray, a drunken maid mistakes Uncle Anthony for a pile of laundry and wheels him away. Annabel, Harry, Rita and Vinnie then frantically attempt to locate one-another, the heart-shaped box, and the missing corpse. During Vinnie's search, he encounters the shapely Dominique du Monaco. She is most interested in his search for the diamonds. (Him, Them, It, Her)

Unable to locate Uncle Anthony, Annabel and Harry return to Harry's room. Several people attempt to earn a cash reward. They bring various people in wheelchairs into the room. None are Uncle Anthony. Harry and Annabel open a bottle of Anthony's Dom Perignon, and let down their guard. Annabel makes a toast to Harry and herself, saying that it was "nice" suffering through the week with him. Their relationship mellows. (Nice)

That night in bed, Harry has a terrible nightmare. Everyone is half dog and half human ...his landlady maliciously welcomes him back to his depressing life as a shoe salesman ....Rita threatens him with a machine gun ....Luigi and Annabel taunt him for his failure to fulfil the terms of the will. In the dream Harry's dead uncle gets out of his wheelchair and tap dances while everyone else forms a ghastly kickline. (Welcome Back, Mr. Witherspoon)

Harry wakes up horrified. Annabel then pops up in bed next to him. She comforts him. Both are apparently nude and both are shocked to find themselves together. Suddenly, a drunk maid miraculously enters the bedroom with Uncle Anthony. Harry and Annabel exchange a quick moment of joy before becoming embarrassed again. Annabel, now antagonistic towards Harry, goes to the bathroom to get dressed, and Harry mulls over the situation. (A Woman in My Bathroom)

As Annabel is about to leave, Rita bursts into the room, gun in hand. She is now wearing her glasses and now realizes that the corpse is not her lover Tony, but a dead stranger; she then demands the heart-shaped box from Harry and Annabel. They refuse to give in to her demands. With nowhere to hide, Harry and Annabel huddle together in fear, expecting to be shot dead by Rita. (Nice (Reprise)) Just before Rita shoots Harry and Annabel, Luigi Gaudi enters the room and loudly proclaims that he is the real Uncle Anthony. He explains that his best friend (the dead man in the chair and the real Luigi Gaudi) was murdered by Rita and that Harry was sent to Monte Carlo in order to give his dead friend one last chance to experience Monte Carlo, in accordance with his dying wishes. (Confession #2 (Reprise)) Anthony reveals that the six million dollars in diamonds is actually sewn inside the corpse. The heart-shaped box only contains the heart of the dead Luigi.

Suddenly, Vinnie and Dominique du Monaco burst into the room dressed as maids. Brandishing a gun at the everyone Vinnie tells the group that he plans to start a new life in Europe with Dominique. He demands the diamonds. Rita gladly hands him the heart-shaped box. Assuming the diamonds are still in the box Vinnie and Dominique exit. Tony gives Annabel the life savings of Luigi in the form of a $10,000 cheque made out to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Tony gives Harry $500 and reminds him that he still has the rest of the week in Monte Carlo. Tony says the week is prepaid and that Harry has Luigi's infallible roulette system at his disposal. Before Tony can talk to Rita, she points the gun at Harry and Annabel. She backs them both into a closet. Rita now apologises to Tony for everything, and Tony forgives her. They take the diamond-laden corpse and triumphantly depart. (Fancy Meeting You Here (Reprise))

Harry and Annabel are left alone with each other. Harry locks the door of the hotel room to protect them from any more unwelcome intruders. Harry persuades Annabel to stay with him in Monte Carlo. Harry and Annabel kiss as the curtain falls. (Act II Finale: Good to Be Alive)

Major characters[edit]

  • Harry Witherspoon - a shy English shoe salesman
  • Annabel Glick - a no-nonsense representative of the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn
  • Rita LaPorta - the high-strung lover of the dead Tony Hendon
  • Vinnie DiRuzzio - Rita's mild-mannered brother; an optometrist
  • Luigi Gaudi - a mysterious, boisterous Italian
  • Dominique du Monaco - a seductive French nightclub singer
  • Emcee - the emcee of a glitzy Monte Carlo nightclub
  • The dead body of Anthony Hendon - the corpse of Harry's uncle, fixed up so he looks alive
  • Landlady - the mean-spirited owner of Harry's apartment house

Musical numbers[edit]


  1. ^ Brown, Joe. "Live Wire 'Lucky Stiff'", The Washington Post. May 12, 1989. p. D4
  2. ^ (no author). "Appalachian Play Tops Hayes Awards", The New York Times. May 9, 1990, p. C19
  3. ^ Ahrens and Flaherty notes
  4. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Lucky Stiff Concert Has Testa, Metz, Gets, Zagnit, Skinner at York Theatre, Oct. 24-26", October 16, 2003


  • Lucky Stiff synopsis at
  • Profile of the show
  • Lucky Stiff at the Music Theatre International website
  • New Yorker. May 9, 1988, volume 64, no. 12, p. 100
  • Variety. May 25, 1988, volume 331, no.5, p. 104
  • Washington Times. May 8, 1989 p. E1 ("Musical is Lucky for theatergoers")
  • Baltimore Sun. May 9, 1989. p. 3C. ("Olney's delightfully zany 'Lucky Stiff'")
  • Libretto/Vocal Book, Lucky Stiff, MUSIC THEATRE INTERNATIONAL.

External links[edit]