Sunday 12 February 2012

Lucky Stiff - Review

Landor Theatre , Clapham, London

February 11 2012


Music : Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics : Lynn Ahrens
Director : Rob McWhir

With Lucky Stiff,  the Landor has offered to London a musical theatre treat, delivered in its intimate surroundings and proving again that a well produced show, based solely around talented performers does not require gimmicks of technology or staging, nor even a heart-rending story.

The show is a delightful farce the improbability and incredibility of which , demand that you set your intellectual expectations at zero as you take your seat. James Winter, recently of Jersey Boys, is Harry Witherspoon, a shoe salesman from Sussex who learns that he will become the sole beneficiary of a distant relatives $6million legacy in diamonds, if he can wine, dine and entertain the deceased’s corpse, for a week in Monte Carlo. The instructions for the weeks carousing are precise, and if Witherspoon fails, the estate will pass to a New York dogs home . Hoping that the Englishman will put a foot wrong, the dogs home have sent Annabel Glick to tail him throughout his European stay, so they can claim the fortune. Throw in a murderous casino manager's moll ( who also happens to be the casino owner's wife ) , a neurotic East Coast optometrist escaping a domineering spouse and you start to get a feel for the outrageous twists and turns of the plotline.

Such a tall story requires actors who can rise to the challenge of delivering performances that are in essence as much caricature as character, and the Lucky Stiff cast do not disappoint.

Winter is everything you expect as an angular awkward Englishman, thrust into circumstances that at first he can barely comprehend, but the challenges of which he quickly rises to. Abigail Jaye, as Glick, the foil to his plans, is a delight to watch. Her performance is perhaps the most challenging of all. A prim do-gooder, concerned solely for the welfare of her dogs, to whom personal pleasure is anathema. Jaye takes Glick on the most delightful arc, cautiously shedding her inhibitions ( and in a moment of sheer farce, her clothes ) as the inevitable love interest blossoms between her and Witherspoon.

Lucy Williamson ( who recently understudied Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow ) is wonderful as the murderous broad, Rita La Porta, dragging her optometrist brother Vincent , maniacally played by Miles Western , in their own pursuit of the diamonds.

To spoil the story would not be fair, but suffice to say that some of the finest principles of farce are upheld - bodies are wheeled in and out in a combination of wheelchairs and laundry baskets, doors open and shut, and of course there has to be a scene in which the trousers of a lipstick-smeared man end up around his ankles.

The choreography is a delight. James Houlbrooke has exploited the Tardis like qualities of the Landor, with routines and movements that defy the dimensions of the room, and the tap dance of Harry’s Nightmare, where the corpse of his dead uncle hilariously leads the line , is wonderful.

Set design too is imaginative, with the numerous doors cleverly designed into the Landor’s space, and it should be added, the comic timing of the cast is faultless throughout.

Rob McWhir has directed a comic gem. The show is literally short and sweet. See it to catch musical theatre at its truly frivolous best.

Runs until February 25

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