Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Music by Stephen Flaherty
Director: Anna Antaramian
Musical Director: Julie Crossen, Choreographer: Judith Warren

Based on The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth
Fall of the 2009 Semester

Musical Farce Is Fun

Aristotle's Poetics defined tragedy and its procedures and effects. But Aristotle's analysis of comedy never made it out of ancient Greece, so we don't know what the great philosopher ever said about comedy, and, consequently, comedy has never been accorded the same respect as tragedy. In the hands of Shakespeare, comedy reached a perfection to equal tragedy's. No one, however, hears about an actor's ambition to play Malvolio in Twelfth Night, but we always hear of the performer's dream to play Hamlet. Lucky Stiff belongs to a sub-genre of comedy: The musical farce, which is under-appreciated even more than comedy itself.

Musical comedy essentially is silly: its plots are superficial; its characters are stereotypes; its message is trite. Each of these elements is inescapable, for to tamper with anyone of them—to make a plot strong or to fully draw a character or to level an important insight into what it means to be human—would be to veer from the true purpose of a musical farce, which is for the audience and performers to have fun.

Comedies like those of Shakespeare and Shaw work hard to be more than superficial; they are always powerful reminders of the foibles of actual humanity. But musical farce has no time for such interrogations. Musical farce is about speed, and the plot and characters are really just hooks on to which are placed songs and dances. Lucky Stiff, the first Broadway success of Ahrens and Flaherty, is no exception.

Consider the characters. The main character, Harry, is a shy, sweet-natured shoe salesman who lacks gumption. In other words, a nerdy sort of guy. The female lead is a self-denying do-gooder who takes life quite seriously. In other words, someone who is afraid of happiness. Another character, Rita, is a passionate, impulsive, jealous woman overly concerned with her looks, but who is also . . . nearsighted. In other words, a frantic woman likely always to run amok. Rita's brother is just the opposite; not only is he an optometrist who supplies his sister her glasses, he is a conservative, a man who never takes risks. In other words, a pillar of the community.  We see a gossip-mongering landlady, a bellhop, a French vamp, an Arab, a British barrister, a dangerous Italian, and a corpse in a wheelchair—all one dimensional characters, and all are woven into the most implausible plot: The nerdy shoe salesman must take his dead, taxidermically preserved uncle on an adventure to the French gambling resort Monte Carlo. Obviously, hilarity ensues when the nephew takes the corpse swimming, fishing and night-clubbing.   
Given this silliness, we have to accept that we are not at the theatre to ponder the eternal verities.  So where does the fun come in? Well, there are plot surprises, narrow escapes, missing bodies, a murder contract; there are jokes—no better or worse, perhaps, than the title itself.

And then there is the music and the rhymes of the lyrics. After the jaunty opening number introduces us to the plot and characters, we hear a sort of musical soliloquy:

Three pairs of alligator pumps. Check.
Two pairs sandal toes in white. Right.
Ten pairs galoshes, for the rain.
And one shoe salesman
Going quietly insane.

Another Friday night
with Harry Witherspoon
another perfect evening on its way
I'll just bet we're having stew
And my rent is overdue
And I haven't sold a shoe all day.

All the glamour and the fun
And the endless days of sun
And the endless nights of stew
And I'm talking to a shoe!

Such lyrics can only be amusing. They are trite, and they flitter by us. But that is their virtue. And the surprise of the rhymes is sometimes just delicious. As the French vamp notes in her main number: "You can share/ in this savoir faire." The silliness of a song's premise is often quite laughable as when the nephew poses to the corpse in the wheelchair a musical non-sequitor, "Uncle, it’s  good to be alive!"

And really, isn't it? What could be better than clever lyrics, pleasant melodies, and no risks or worries for the audience? I think even the great philosopher himself might have agreed. After all, legend has it that Aristotle liked to pretend he was a horse and then let friends ride him. How amusing is that?

Patrick McGuire
English Department
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Annabel Glick....Kendel Lester
Harry Witherspoon....Ryan Gilbert
Rita La Porta......Lisa Cantwell
Vincent Di Ruzzio....Andrew Berlien
Luigi Gaudi.....John Rodrick
Woman 1......Danna Pantzke
Man 1......Danny Shannon
Woman 2.....Sara Greenfield
Man 2....Jesus Matta
The Body of Uncle Anthony...Tony Gasbarro

Production Staff __________________________________
Light Designer/Co-Tech Director...John Rodriguez
Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director..Jessica Kuehnau
Stage Manager....Ann Dernbach
Assistant Stage Manager...Cheryl Lyman
Costume Designer....Elizabeth Wislar
Wardrobe...Caitlin Varpness
Master Electrician....Elias Morales
Sound Designer.......Rich Martin
Sound Assistant.......James Mallory
Sound Board Operator....Luke Townsend
Run Crew......Michael Weinstein, Nicole Ross, Tania Saavedra, Thomastrius Murray
Light Board Operator.....Cesar Miranda
Set Construction........Theatre Practicum
Artistic & Managing Director...Anna Antaramian
Theatre Manager......Colleen McCready
Assistant Theatre Manager..Blagovesta Ranguelova
Box Office Manager..James Watson
Assistant Box Office Manager.....Jessica Slizewski
House Manager..Laura Aldmeyer
Theatre Bookkeeper..Becca Raven Uminowicz

Kendel Lester (Annabel Glick) is thrilled to be a part of NEIU's production of Lucky Stiff. She is a recent transplant to Chicago but has already had the privilege to work with Dennis De Young in his Hunchback of Notre Dame, as well as Julia Cameron in the premier of her new musical, The Medium At Large. She is also currently starring in the long running musical comedy hit, Kama Sutra: The Musical at Davenport's. She would like to thank her friends and family for their continual support.

Ryan Gilbert (Harry Witherspoon) is thrilled to be a part of this wonderful production. After appearing in his first Stage Center Theatre production as Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream this past summer, he is eager to take on the role of Harry in Lucky Stiff. It has been a thrill for Ryan to be a part of this cast and production. Ryan would like to thank his family and friends for all their support. He would also like to thank Anna, Julie and Judith for  pushing him to the limit and making him the best he could possibly be.

Lisa Cantwell (Rita La Porta) is humbled to be working with the amazingly talented cast and crew of Lucky Stiff.  She is currently a graduate student in Communication, Media and Theatre at NEIU.  Her favorite roles include Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Miss Framer in Lettice and Lovage, and Miss Lynch in Grease. Many thanks to Judith and Julie for their effervescent enthusiasm, to the simply divine Anna for her boundless energy and wisdom, and to Monkey and B for making each day something funny.

Andrew Berlien (Vincent Di Ruzzio)  is a native of Chicago and is delighted to be acting at the Stage Center Theater once again. He was last seen in the Stage Left’s Loopshop production of NightSongManChild, Thymely Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Studio Series production of Queer Strindberg, and the Stage Center Theater productions of Electra and Charley's Aunt. Andrew would like to thank Anna for taking him in last-minute, and the entire cast and crew for allowing him this wonderful opportunity. Oh, and Mom? Dad? My shoes hurt for you.

John Rodrick (Luigi Gaudi)  is excited to be back on the boards again at NEIU. He last appeared as Reginald Lawrence in a staged reading of Walter Mosley’s A Red Death in the Studio Theater several years ago. Among John’s favorite roles are: Bill in Gladiator, Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Antoine in A Slap in the Farce, Smirnov in The Bear, The Old Man in Edward Bond’s Bingo and Nils Krogstad in A Doll’s House. John would especially like to thank his very understanding and patient wife Mechelle for all of her support on this long and winding road.

Danna Pantzke (Woman 1) is proud to be working with the cast of Lucky Stiff for her first performance since moving to Chicago in September. Favorite performances include, Martha in The Secret Garden, Eve in Children of Eden, Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Hold Me, Touch Me in The Producers. Danna would like to thank Mom, Papa and Paul for their constant love and encouragement.

Jesus Matta (Man 1) is thrilled to be in his very first musical!! He's had the time of his life working with the enormously talented folks here at the Stage Center Theatre and thanks everyone for their patience as he tried to find his voice and dancing feet.  Special thanks to Anna and company for having me along for the ride.

Sara Greenfield (Woman 2) is happy to be returning to the Stage Center Theatre where her previous credits include Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sara is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s BFA program in Theatre Performance and this upcoming year you can catch her on television in commercials for AIU. Other Chicago credits include Voice of Camp Zero in the US premiere of Zero with Oracle Theatre and Merge by Neil Labute for the 2008 WTA Actor Showcase at the Theatre Building in Chicago. Favorite past roles include Sarah in J.B., Beatrice in The Changeling, and Mae in The Wild Party.

Danny Shannon (Man 2) is a graduate of ICC and Bradley and was involved in many productions while in college, including the lead in The Importance of Being Earnest.  Since, he has been writing sketch comedy, performing and doing as much art as possible.  This is his first show at NEIU and he is excited to be working with a talented cast and crew. Danny hopes his work in theatre may be a cure to world peace, or hunger, but unfortunately has slight delusions of grandeur; which is leading to his massive ego and hence causing increased global warming through the emission of toxic pretension.

Tony Gasbarro (Stiff) is  returning to the stage for the first time in more than ten years, and only the second time he has appeared on stage dead. Tony was last seen fleeing the scene of a cow-tipping incident gone horribly wrong. But on stage he last performed as Van Buren, the manager of the Washington Senators, in Theatre Albany’s 1998 production of Damn Yankees in Albany, Georgia. Tony is single, lives in the northwest suburbs, loves cuddling during thunderstorms and enjoys long walks on the beach, though he is acutely aware none exist in the northwest suburbs.

Anna Antaramian (Director) has been a member of NEIU’s theatre family for the past nineteen years. She is the Managing and Artistic Director of the Stage Center Theatre, Thymely Theatre, and is a past president of the Illinois Theatre Association. She holds an M.F.A. from New York University and has worked in various theatrical venues across the country, the most recent being the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre. Special thanks to H-S-A-N-T and, as always, Mr. McGuire.

Julie Crossen
(Musical Director) recently completed her M.A. in Vocal Pedagogy at NEIU and is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Anna Antaramian!  Julie also holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Iowa and has appeared professionally in dozens of productions in Chicago as well as in regional  theater.  Her favorite roles have been those recently at NEIU in the Opera Workshop under the direction of Sasha Gerritson (Susannah in Susannah, Monica in The Medium, and the Witch in Into the Woods). As a musical director/vocal coach/accompanist, Julie works at theaters/studios throughout the area and at Niles West High School.  There she had the opportunity to musical direct in a workshop with the Tony Award winning William Finn on A New Brain as part of their Kennedy Center Award for Excellence in the Arts. This summer she will be accompanying the Niles West students as musical director for their production at the Fringe Festival in Scotland. Much love to Kaleb and Jadyn, who patiently have sat through theater rehearsals since their infancy!

Judith Warren (Choreographer) is delighted to be returning to NEIU. Since 1991 she has been honored to work with director Anna Antaramian on more than a dozen productions, both at NEIU and at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre in Grand Lake, Colorado. Favorite NEIU credits as costumer for Anna include: You Can’t Take It With You, Much Ado About Nothing, Flyin’ West and Same Time, Next Year. Favorite RMRT credits as choreographer for Anna include: Hello Dolly, 1776, Dames at Sea, Fiddler on the Roof and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Along with her husband, Skelly Warren, Judith worked with the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre for 35 years, serving as Artistic Director for nine years. She was on the faculty of the Milwaukee Ballet School and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee for 15 years, and is currently teaching dance at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside. This one is for my new grandson Max. May he always be lucky!

Elizabeth Wislar (Costumer) formerly Shaffer- has been designing in the Chicago area for over nine years as a freelance costume designer for theater and film.  This career has blessed her with multiple design awards, as well as opportunities to work in Europe. Her designs have been seen in collaboration with over 30 professional theaters, New York film production companies, as well as all of the local major universities.

Jessica Kuehnau (Scenic Designer) is pleased to be designing her third season for  the Stage Center Theatre and third year as tech faculty for NEIU.  Since completing her MFA in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, Ms. Kuehnau has been designing sets and costumes for such notable theatres as Pegasus Players, Circle Theatre, Griffin, Lifeline Theatre, MPAACT, Adventure Stage Chicago, Metropolis Performing Art Center and Backstage Theatre.  She is also the resident set designer at North Park University and a founding ensemble member of Adventure Stage Chicago.

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer) joined the theatre faculty at NEIU six years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on Stage Center Theatre productions.  Most recent designs include An Inspector Calls, Arms and the Man, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lettice and Lovage, The Illusion, Electra and Charley’s Aunt as well as Thymley Theatre’s productions of Taking Steps and Stage Door.

Ann Dernbach (Stage Manager) is thrilled to be working on her first production at the Stage Center Theatre. She graduated from Fordham University in 2006 and received the Rev Alfred Barrett, SJ award for theatre.  She has also interned at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Second City, and 78th Street Theatre Lab.  She would like to thank the cast and crew for a great experience, Anna for the opportunity, Lisa for thinking of her, and her boss for being flexible.

Cheryl Lyman (Assistant Stage Manager) is thrilled to be working backstage for the first time, as Assistant Stage Manager for Lucky Stiff.  In the past few years, she’s appeared onstage in Queer Strindberg, Electra, Charley’s Aunt, Stage Door, Arcadia and Mrs. Warren’s Profession. She would like to thank Anna for the opportunity to learn more areas of the theatre, and her son Alex for accepting his mother’s eccentricities with a shrug and a hug.

Patti Cavaleri & Terez Fancher (Dance Captains) are University of Wisconsin-Parkside dance students of guest choreographer Judith Warren, (UW-Parkside Faculty) and are earning extra credit for their Jazz Dance class by learning the ropes of being dance captains and swing dancers for musical theatre. Patti Cavaleri is from Woodbury, Minnesota. She has danced for most of her life and loves musicals. Patti has performed both on stage and in the orchestra pit for theatrical productions. This is her first experience with being a dance captain/swing dancer. Terez Fancher is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She enjoys dancing, and is currently in her second year as a performing member of UW-Parkside’s Chaos dance team. Terez is excited to be learning about the musical theatre dance world alongside NEIU’s Lucky Stiff cast.   

Special Thanks:
The Department of Communication, Media and Theatre Faculty and Staff, Katrina Bell-Jordan, Lisa Cantwell, Colleen McCready, Blagovesta Ranguelova, Shayne Cofer, Danuta Lusinski, Steve Zivin, Rick Martin, Tim Davis, Robert Smith, Becca Raven Uminowicz, Department of Public Relations and the Department of  Accounts Payable, Budget, and Purchasing

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