Lucky Stiff

Sat 4th – Sat 11th August 2018


Charlie Norton

at 09:10 on 11th Aug 2018



BB Theatre Productions promises to deliver an evening of "inspired musical theatre lunacy" with their production of 'Lucky Stiff'. However, it is difficult to discern a thread of inspiration in the humdrum couple of hours that ensue.

'Lucky Stiff' – a collaboration between lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty – follows Harry Witherspoon as he wheels his uncle’s dead corpse to Monte Carlo in a desperate bid to escape his dead-end job in East Grinstead and win a six-million-dollar inheritance.

The company offered a cheerful rendition of the musical with a cast who had clearly worked hard on their individual performances. Several chorus members were required to perform multiple roles and they were fairly successful in doing so, whilst the lead and supporting actors gave a pleasant performance. One of the saving graces for me was Sophie Spencer who played the dog-obsessed and uptight Annabelle Glick. Despite a few minor vocal weaknesses, Spencer created a believable character and maintained an attention to detail that other cast members lacked. Emma Carver, clad in leopard-print, proved a worthy foil to the unlikely romantic heroine with her portrayal of the short-sighted and homicidal Rita La Porta. Indeed, her solo ‘Fancy Meeting you Here’ was delivered with the necessary panache and caused giggles throughout the audience. The ensemble as a whole showed potential in ‘Him, Them, It, Her’ with well-pitched harmonies and good projection, whilst the vivid dream sequence ‘Welcome Back’ somewhat filled the gap left by a lack of choreography throughout the rest of the show.

However, the already confusing plot was not helped by a lack of chemistry between characters, inconsistent accents and lengthy set changes. Stuart Hayllor’s portrayal of Harry Witherspoon was capable but he inexplicably lapsed into a cockney accent at points and did not quite meet the energy of his romantic counterpart. As briefly mentioned above, there was an unfortunate lack of attention to detail: on train rides just half the cast were simulating the jolting effect of the journey; the set was cluttered; and the ‘corpse’ stood up and walked off stage when the lights went down for the interval, shattering the façade that provides the majority of the comedy in the show.

Ultimately, though I would not see the production again, the cast themselves seemed to have fun and the pace picked up in the second half of the show. 'Lucky Stiff' was certainly more lukewarm than it was heart-warming, but seemed to be relatively well received by an all-ages audience.


Olivia Cooke

at 09:21 on 11th Aug 2018



'Something Funny’s Going On' and sadly, it’s not ‘Lucky Stiff’. Julian Hirst’s production follows the farcical exploits of English shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon (Stuart Hayllor), as he attempts to secure a windfall multi-million-dollar inheritance by taking the corpse of his dead uncle out for a booze and gambling filled holiday in Monte Carlo. Set to a lively number of show tunes, Hirst’s show is unable to live up to its musical content, with numerous comedic gags failing to reach the high note.

Ensemble pieces involving the entire cast proved to be the highlights of the entire performance. With carefully constructed choreography courtesy of Auriole Wells, the cast were able to command the physical space around them with a deftness and sureness of presence. In ‘Welcome Back, Mr Witherspoon’, the cast around Hayllor’s Harry swarmed around him like a prowling pack of wolves, performing a comically garish can-can in response to his character’s nightmarish vision of returning back to East Grinstead.

Aside from rare musical numbers like these, I personally struggled to find the rest of the performance amusing. Gags in the dialogue failed to meet the mark, often due to weak diction when certain principal characters were singing out their lines. Individual cast member’s performances were also varied, with a large number of performers struggling to really get their teeth into their character. Gemma Campbell’s performance as the exotic dancer Dominique du Monaco was almost like a parody of Lumière from 'Beauty and the Beas't. Her main piece ‘Speaking French’, was undermined by her adoption of a parodied Franglais accent which sat awkwardly amongst the musical notes of the song.

Although ‘Lucky Stiff’ found its feet during the second half, the musical was unable to make me laugh in the slightest. For a piece that relied heavily on successive comedic gags and punchlines, I felt very disappointed coming out of the theatre, and unmoved by what I had just seen.


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