|Basis||The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, 1983 novel by Michael Butterworth|
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. It won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Musical, and Pappas won as Best Actor in a Musical.
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.
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 Levo as Harry and Sarah Ritchie as Annabel.
Ten characters in a quasi-Greek Chorus inform the audience of the zany plot twists to come. One of them, a man wearing dark glasses and silk pajamas, is murdered. (Something Funny's Going On)
- Act I
English shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon, spending his Friday night taking inventory in a shoe shop and dreaming of a better life, receives a telegram summoning him to a solicitor's office upon arriving at his run-down apartment run by a mean-spirited landlady. (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, who is sitting in a wheelchair and has been dressed to appear alive, on an all-expenses paid "vacation" to Monte Carlo, and fulfill 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, who hates dogs, reluctantly accepts the terms of the will and travels to Monte Carlo with the cassette tape, a mysterious heart-shaped box, and his uncle's corpse.
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 that day's newspaper about an "English shoe salesman who has inherited six million dollars from his casino manager uncle." Rita tells the confused Vinnie that due to her poor eyesight, she accidentally shot her lover Tony, the manager of her husband Nicky's casino (and Harry's dead uncle), because she had suspected Tony of cheating on her. She also explains that with the help of Tony, she has embezzled six million dollars worth of diamonds from her husband, but that the heart-shaped box containing the diamonds is gone. Rita also confesses to her shocked brother that she has blamed the embezzlement on him and that her husband has subsequently placed a contract on his life. Together, they 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 encounters Luigi Gaudi, a flashy and enigmatic Italian who offers to be his tour guide. Harry also observes that a mysterious young woman on the train is glaring at him and diligently taking notes. (Good to Be Alive)
Harry arrives in Monte Carlo with his uncle. Although frustrated that he must fulfill 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 watching him. He confronts her and the woman introduces herself as Annabel Glick, 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, but 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, and that she is recording his every move to make sure that he flawlessly executes all of the will's conditions. If Harry makes one mistake in this mission, she will take his uncle from Harry, 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 calls every hotel in Monte Carlo in order to find the one Harry is staying in, Vinnie calls 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 own life. Mary Alice angrily hangs up on him. (The Phone Call) Rita successfully finds Harry's hotel, and books two rooms right down the hall from Harry.
Meanwhile, Harry and his uncle, doggedly pursued by Annabel, spend the day traveling around Monte Carlo 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 a place for "lovers in love," and 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, who sings a flamboyant cabaret number that has everybody in the nightclub bumping. (Speaking French) After the performance, Dominique tells Harry that his uncle has arranged for them to spend many hours together that night, and sits in an empty seat next to Harry. As Dominique teaches Harry 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, and Annabel follows, as the Emcee lauds the romantic merits of Monte Carlo once again. (Monte Carlo! (Reprise))
Later, while Harry is having fun in the casino, Rita has disguised herself as a maid in order to scour Harry's hotel room for the diamonds. Meanwhile, Vinnie stands nervously nearby and soon leaves the room. When Harry returns with Uncle Anthony, Rita hastily hides in the closet. Harry leaves the corpse in the hotel room, says goodbye to his "Uncle Anthony," and returns to the casino to continue gambling, closely followed by Annabel. Squinting from the closet, Rita can barely make out the shape of a man in a 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 hand and discovers that he is dead. (Fancy Meeting You Here)
Harry is on a winning streak at the casino, thanks to Tony's friend's infallible system for winning roulette, when a livid Rita arrives on the scene. Armed with a gun and Tony's corpse, she threatens to kill Harry unless he hands over her lover and 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 fracas, Rita's gun goes off accidentally as her brother tries to restrain her. Rita then turns the crowd on Vinnie and 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 each other, the heart-shaped box, and the missing corpse. During his quest, Vinnie encounters the shapely Dominique du Monaco, who 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 for bringing various people in wheelchairs to the room, but none are Uncle Anthony. Harry and Annabel resignedly open a bottle of Anthony's Dom Perignon, and let down their guard. Annabel makes a toast to the both of them, saying that it was "nice" suffering through the week with him. Their relationship mellows. (Nice)
That night, 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, and Luigi and Annabel taunt him for his failure to fulfill the terms of the will. His 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 pops up next to him and comforts him. Both are apparently nude, and shocked to find themselves in bed together. Suddenly, the drunk maid miraculously enters the bedroom with Uncle Anthony, and Harry and Annabel exchange a quick moment of joy before becoming embarrassed again. Annabel, now again 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 realizes that the corpse is not her lover Tony, but a dead stranger; she then demands the heart-shaped box from Harry and Annabel. Harry and Annabel refuse to give in to her demands, but with nowhere to hide, Harry and Annabel huddle together in fear, expecting to be shot dead by Rita. (Nice (Reprise)) However, just before Rita kills 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 dispatched 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 also reveals that the six million dollars in diamonds is actually sewn inside the corpse, and that the heart-shaped box instead 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 group, Vinnie tells the group that he plans to start a new life in Europe with Dominique, and 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 Luigi's life savings in the form of a $10,000 check 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 prepaid and Luigi's infallible roulette system at his disposal. Before Tony can talk to Rita, she points the gun at Harry and Annabel yet again and backs them into a closet. Rita then apologizes to Tony for everything, and Tony forgives Rita. 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 to protect them from any more unwelcome intruders, and persuades Annabel to stay with him in Monte Carlo. Harry and Annabel kiss as the curtain falls. (Act II Finale: Good to Be Alive)
- 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
- Brown, Joe. "Live Wire 'Lucky Stiff'", The Washington Post. May 12, 1989. p. D4
- (no author). "Appalachian Play Tops Hayes Awards", The New York Times. May 9, 1990, p. C19
- Ahrens and Flaherty notes wetellthestory.com
- Jones, Kenneth."Lucky Stiff Concert Has Testa, Metz, Gets, Zagnit, Skinner at York Theatre, Oct. 24-26".playbill.com, October 16, 2003
- Lucky Stiff synopsis at guidetomusicaltheatre.com
- 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.
- Internet Off-Broadway listing
- Program notes
- Review of the London production
- The New York Times review, April 27, 1988