Film Review: Lucky Stiff (2015)

“A view won’t be a view without you in my way”

Filmed a couple of years ago, the movie adaptation of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s musical farce Lucky Stiff has now been released for you to enjoy at leisure across a raft of digital platforms, courtesy of Signature Entertainment. I’ve seen the show twice onstage now (most recently at the Drayton Arms) and neither time did it really win me over, the limitations of fringe productions doing the show little favour. But strangely enough, it is this cinematic version that seems to work the best, suiting its idiosyncratic charms down to the ground.

The piece is a featherlight piece of French fancy, based on the Michael Butterworth novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, as an East Grinstead shoe salesman seizes on the chance to live a little when he’s the beneficiary of an unexpected inheritance from his late, rich, barely-known uncle. He’s got to go to Monte Carlo to fulfil the strangely detailed terms and conditions though and there he find an assorted cast of misfits who also have an eye on the cool $6m – and thus the farcical goings-on begin.

Where Christopher Ashley’s direction (from Ahrens’ screenplay) succeeds, is in firmly locating Lucky Stiff in the heightened world of screwball musical comedy, which fits the classically old-fashioned writing style of Ahrens and Flaherty well. Set in “the 1970s-ish”, the madcap antics and slow-burning romances play out with light-hearted camp and charm, anchored by two sweet performances from Dominic Marsh and Nikki M James as the cobbler and his dog-loving nemesis, and two over-the-top turns from Pamela Shaw and Jason Alexander.

It, and they, are daft as a brush but if you’re in the mood for some frothy entertainment, then this could well hit the spot (though personally, I’d’ve done away with the animated inserts). Flaherty’s music may not instantly strike as being memorable but listening to this after seeing the show last month, I found I could hum along to several of the songs, their tunefulness subtly works its magic on you. And the number of Broadway faces packing out the smaller role ensures an enjoyable stagey-star-spotting time (Cheyenne Jackson and Jayne Houdyshell were my faves).

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