top of page
  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Lucky Stiff (Be You Productions), at Chapel Off Chapel, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival - 2 hours, including a 20-minute interval

A corpse dressed to the nines being carted around the French Riviera in a wheelchair. What could possibly go wrong?


Plenty in this farcical musical comedy that reminded me of the 1989 movie Weekend at Bernie’s, that became a cult classic.


It is the second time the slapstick Lucky Stiff has played in Prahran in a little over six months.


Last August, it kicked off at The MC Showroom and now the same cast is back with more hijinks at Chapel Off Chapel.

Photos by Daniele Buatti


Harry Witherspoon (Daniel Cook) is an English shoe salesman. With his rent overdue, his customers are scarce.


He dreams of taking it easy on a sandy beach, but that is all it is – a dream – until a most unexpected development.


An uncle he has never met, Anthony Hendon (John Ninis), a casino manager in Atlantic City, New Jersey dies.


Being his only living relative, Harry stands to inherit Tony’s fortune, which amounts to $6 million … subject to stringent conditions.


But Harry isn’t concerned about any caveats and signs on the dotted line, only to discover the bizarre nature of those conditions.


That happens when Tony’s embalmed and dressed body enters in a wheelchair and wearing sunglasses.

Harry must take possession of Tony’s cadaver and listen carefully to his late uncle’s instructions, recorded onto cassette before he met his maker.


They involve living it up large on an all-expenses paid holiday to Monte Carlo, ensuring no one wises up to Tony’s real predicament.


A grand adventure awaits, which includes snorkeling and skydiving with Tony, the stiff.


Failure to carry out Tony’s wishes to the letter would mean Harry would have to forgo all the money.


That would then be gifted to Tony’s favourite charity, the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn.


Following Harry every step of the way is the conservative but determined Annabel Glick (Chelsea Hyde).

She works at the dog home and is charged with tracking Harry and stands ready to pounce should he put a foot wrong.


To make matters worse, Tony’s married, legally blind lover Rita La Porta (Elle Sejean-Allen) wants in too.


Due to her poor eyesight, she accidentally shot and killed him, but she isn’t afraid to do so again if she doesn’t get her way.


That involves blackmailing her optometrist brother Vinnie Di Ruzzio (Drew Holmes) in the process.


Still, before this is over, there is a significant twist in store.


Based on the 1983 novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, by Michael Butterworth, Lucky Stiff was first produced Off-Broadway in 1988.


The book and lyrics are by Lynn Ahrens, with music by Stephen Flaherty.

Director Christopher Ashley also made a film version of the musical in 2014.


Lucky Stiff is off the wall fun and the company has a wow of a time realising the wacky storyline.


Much of the narrative unfolds via the musical numbers.


Exaggeration is the name of the game, especially seen in some of the larger-than-life characterisations.


Elle Sejean-Allen is a case in point as the dramatic, gun-toting Rita La Porta.


Drew Holmes’ harried affectations as her brother who has a contract on his head and  has forgotten his wife’s 40th birthday also hit the mark.


Nathan Fernandez is unforgettable as the effusive Luigi Gaudi, an Italian that Harry meets on the train to Monte Carlo and offers to be his tour guide.

That is but a smattering of what is in store for those that venture to Chapel Off Chapel to get a taste of French champagne.


Daniel Cook does a fine job channeling the shy shoe salesman caught way out of his depth who bonds with the diligent, all business dog home employee.


Chelsea Hyde transitions Annabel Glick admirably from aloof to “interested”.


While musically there is still improvement to be had in the 11-strong cast, their heart on sleeve performances go down well.


Musical director Daniele Buatti also makes his mark on the keyboard.


Director Bradley Dylan gives the cast plenty of latitude to realise the characters’ peccadilloes and the musical benefits as a result.


Two hours, including a 20-minute interval, it is playing at Chapel Off Chapel, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, until 14th April, 2024.


bottom of page