Lucky Stiff

Written on July 25th, 2017

Note: This show was reviewed at Playhouse II, Grand Bend.  It is now on stage at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, August 9 to 27, 2017. 

A Stellar Cast Makes This Musical   

Lucky Stiff is an interesting little musical, first produced Off-Broadway in 1988, and based on the novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, which was published in 1983.  The novel may have been influenced by the 1935 movie and a very silly 1890s song, both of the same name.  But from what I understand, the old movie and the song didn’t involve a dead body.

But this musical, now on stage at Playhouse II in Grand Bend, has as its central character, a dead man in a wheelchair travelling from England to make the rounds at the casinos of Monte Carlo.

The plot is ridiculous and very convoluted.   It is suffice to say that a rich dead man leaves a fortune to a long lost nephew, provided that the nephew takes his body on vacation, which can be done, thanks to taxidermy. If the nephew fails, all his money goes to a dog charity.  There are many twists and turns before the silly conclusion.

It’s not a brilliant plot but it has many laughs along the way.  Nor are the songs memorable, but some of the tunes and lyrics are cute.  However, this musical is saved by a stellar cast.   Comic geniuses, who are great singers and dancers, keep the audience completely entertained throughout this production.

Billy Lake, as the nephew Harry Witherspoon, keeps us enthralled – first as a hapless shoe salesman, later as the travelling gambler.  His comedy and singing skills are great, then he dons tap shoes and impresses with his dance skills.

Julia McLellan, who stole the show in last year’s A Chorus Line at the Stratford Festival, is delightful as Annabel Glick from the dog charity, keeping an eye on Harry. Lake and McLellan are so good together as they go from adversaries to friends, that it’s actually quite touching.

Ayrin Mackie is outrageous as the leopard-skin outfitted crazy woman with a gun.  Aiden deSalaiz is very funny as her brother who is her opposite: a milque-toast optometrist.

Charlotte Moore, a staple of Canadian musical theatre, is hilarious as she juggles five different roles, requiring some quick costume changes.  Kudos to her for all the quirky accents.

Kayla James handles three roles with ease, most notably as the feathered and sequinned show girl.  Tim Porter also handles five roles, adding laughs to each.  You’ll recognize him from his key parts in pantos in past years.  Matt Palmer has quick changes as well, as he manipulates six humourous roles.  Daniel Abrahamson also appears in different costumes, and somehow ends up unravelling the mystery.

That leaves Robert Bridel who plays the dead man.  You might think he had an easy job, not having to memorize any lines.  Yet it was a tough role to play: he had to know when to flop appropriately,  and there was laughter each time he was wheeled around.  The set is very well done, from a run-down boarding house to an elaborate high-end hotel and casino.  The various set pieces move about easily, (other than one opening night snag) creating new scenes.  The show includes fascinating props.  A twirling propeller becomes an airplane.  A variety of puppet-like heads in bright florescent colours under black light, create a scary nightmare. Costumes are also very good, from plain and simple to fancy show girl.

Credit goes to Director David Connolly, who magically gives this cute little mystery/love story the appearance of a big time musical, with only 10 people.  He was able to pull together 10 very talented people to make this a great show.

So while this isn’t a show I would rush out to see elsewhere, I would see it again, just for this production’s great comedic acting, beautiful singing and remarkable dancing provided by a brilliant cast.  Go see it – this cast makes the gamble worthwhile!

Lucky Stiff continues with eight shows a week until August 5 at Playhouse II in Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check

Photo: Rob Bridel, Ayrin Mackie, Billy Lake and Company.  Photo by Darlene O’Rourke.

Lucky Stiff
Book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Based on “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”
Directed & Choreographed by David Connolly
Musical Direction by Joseph Tritt
Performed by Daniel Abrahamson, Robert Bridel, Aidan DeSalaiz, Kayla James, Billy Lake, Ayrin Mackie, Julia McLellan, Charlotte Moore, Matt Palmer, & Tim Porter.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Playhouse II, Grand Bend
July 20 to August 5, 2017
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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