Zany Charm & Fun…”LUCKY STIFF”


The Orange Park Community Theatre and the Tom Nehl Fund of the Community Foundation presents the first show of the 46th season of this all-volunteer theatre company. The show, which opened on September 11, 2015 and will be on-stage through October 4, is the kind that OPCT patrons love; madcap farce with farfetched plots. And music. And dancing.

Lucky Stiff,” with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty, is making its Florida premiere at OPCT, and will be of interest to many local theater-goers. These two musical geniuses created the music and lyrics for “Ragtime,” and the book, music, and lyrics for “Seussical” and “Once Upon This Island.”

“Lucky Stiff” was the first creation of the collaborators in 1988, which is by itself a good reason to take in this entertainingly silly but very funny show. The show is based on a novel by Michael Butterworth entitled “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.”

A lot of zany things happen in this show with no ambition beyond charm and fun, but here is a brief plot summary.

Harry Witherspoon is a shoe salesman in a dreary British retail store, who receives a telegram that will change his life. His Uncle Tony in the USA has died and left him six million dollars. To get the money, he has to follow instructions on a tape previously recorded by his uncle, which includes escorting the embalmed body, in a wheelchair and dressed to the nines, to Monte Carlo for a week.

Ah, but there is a fly in this ointment, in fact, several. Harry is being followed around by an attractive American woman, Annabel. She is a representative of The Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn, a charity which has been promised Uncle Tony’s money if Harry fails to live up to the terms of the will.

Also on his tail is the fiery Rita, Tony’s former mistress, who is almost blind and is responsible for Tony’s death: she accidently shot him while aiming at a woman beside him. She wants the money because it was stolen from her ex-husband. Tagging along with Rita is Vinnie, her uneasy optometrist brother. During the course of the evening, in too many scenes to count, we travel from London to Atlantic City to Nice to Monte Carlo. Along the way we are treated to Harry and his deceased uncle engaging in bucket list activities, all very cleverly presented, but no spoilers here, discover those for yourself. In Act II, the plot does some twisting and flipping but no spoilers here, either.

There are some eighteen songs, all of which move the plot along in their own unique way with interesting melodies. We liked “Times Like This” which was a love song to dogs and “Nice,” which was, well, nice and an interesting duet.

Lucky_Stiff_PosterNewcomer Justin Reynolds was perfect as the handsome shoe salesman, and his British accent was right on the mark. Mr. Reynolds received his BA in Performing Arts from New Jersey’s Kean University in 2012 and his playbill biography indicates he has performed in over sixty productions.

Michelle Nugent Munley as the dog champion Annabel was excellent. She posses a fine well-trained voice and really made her numbers shine. We have been fans of Michelle since way back when she performed at the Mark Two Dinner Theatre in Orlando. She has a dog of her own; Checkers is in the cast, and this dog is a natural actor if we ever saw one.

Andi Johns, as the sight-impaired murderess Rita, is appearing in her first musical in fourteen years and she knows how to belt out a song that fits her character perfectly.

Josh Katzman is hilarious as the anxious and uncomfortable Vinnie. Mr. Katzman has been a busy actor, having appeared in featured roles in all of Northeast Florida Conservatory’s four musicals, and we are hoping to see him again in November the upcoming “South Pacific.”

Jack Bisson is Luigi in the casino scenes. He is also the voice of the dead uncle on the taped directions that Harry is following.

Denise Girona Fernandez is the French singer Dominique, who wows the audience with her dynamic larger-than-life rendition of “Speaking French.”

One of the most difficult roles in the show is performed without the character saying a word. Trey Henderson was masterful as The Stiff (the dead guy). Having to sit motionless in a wheelchair in multiple scenes throughout the play while being pushed every which way but up is quite an accomplishment.

Director Sara Green did an excellent bit of casting for this show and much of this musical’s success would not have been possible without the fine performances of the ensemble cast who played many roles, and made numerous frantic costume changes. In addition, ensemble members helped the Stage Crew, Ethan Walls and Kayla Kurmaskie, with scene changes and props. Kudos to Evan Bowen, Brenda Cohn, Steve Cohn, Tom DeBorde, Praniti Kudre, Stan Mesnick, Benjamin Scott, Isabelle Scott, Breanna Shuman and Danielle Summerton. Samantha Eigenmann, in addition to a role as a hotel maid, also appeared as a dancer in the character of a roulette wheel.

The costuming, by Sara Green, Bill Kroner, and Sandy Summerton was a formidable task, given the many characters and scene changes, and was a visual delight.

The Musical Directors are Brenda Cohn and Sonia Lewis. The music was expertly played by Charlie Mann on keyboard and Todd Low on drums.

April Burke was not only the Producer of “Lucky Stiff” but also Assistant Director and Stage Manager.

This show was not successful in New York back in 1988 but there is currently renewed interest. It was made into a film in 2014 and just recently released; as a movie it will probably be a lot like “A Weekend with Bernie” or “The Pink Panther.” But you don’t have to wait to experience two hours of farcical fun, as Orange Park’s excellent production runs through early October. The theatre is at 2900 Moody Ave in Orange Park, Florida. For additional information and reservations, visit


About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.