Home
Reviews
Archive
Listings
About Us
Email

Production

Lucky Stiff

Company

LaSalle College of the Arts

Reviewer

Ng Yi-Sheng

Date

27/11/2008

Time

8.00pm

Place

Creative Cube, LaSalle College of the Arts

Rating

****

Singing While They're Winning

As the economic crunch kicks in, it's good to know it's still possible to watch a top quality musical in Singapore for $20 or under. And I'm not talking about video rentals; I'm talking about the LaSalle College Musical Theatre Programme student productions. The few shows I've watched by these young people are pure entertainment; all-singing, all-dancing fiestas of real quality performed by real talents.

Lucky Stiff is a case in point. The play isn't famous - it's the maiden success by the writing team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, who'd later create Ragtime and Seussical,and has never played Broadway (though it's had a limited run on the West End). It's the story of a young English shoe salesman, Henry Witherspoon, who suddenly discovers one day that he's inherited five million dollars from his long-lost American uncle, casino manager Tony Hendon. The only catch is that he's first obliged to take Hendon's stuffed, wheelchair-bound corpse on vacation to Monte Carlo. Throw in a legally blind Brooklynite murderess and a lissome dogs' home representative also chasing the five mill, and hilarity naturally ensues - with a couple of big plot twists towards the end.

What makes this work so well is, first of all, the acting and singing, the former patterned after the high-energy, madcap vaudeville style of performance and the latter characterised by big, brassy belting - surely a challenge for the Level 3 Musical Theatre cohort, but carried off with aplomb. Though there isn't much dancing per se, there are some great movement sequences: a bawdy opening number, Something Funny's Going On, with the ensemble hopping between one sexually audacious pose to the next; a nightmare sequence with the entire company flapping about like eldritch ghosts, and of course loads of antics with the slumping corpse in a wheelchair (played to terribly amusing effect by Kevin Lagrange from the Foundation Theatre course).

Naturally, the lead actors must be praised: Zachary Tyler performed Henry Witherspoon with an endearing haplessness naturally accentuated by his youth. I'd noted an out-of-place Australian twang in his voice during his first solo, but this soon faded to a more appropriate British accent. His character's love interest, Annabel Glick, was rendered by Ashlee Clement - her mock-soulful ballad, Times Like These, was a clear audience favourite. In terms of comic relief, however, Shaan Battersby stole the show as the sassy, pistol-packing, short-sighted sociopath Rita La Porta with a Brooklynite Italian-American drawl and swagger honed to sweet perfection. And the role of her browbeaten brother, Vinnie de Ruzzio, fits actor Timothy Garner live a glove - whether it's a case of good acting or typecasting, I don't know.

Notably, a few of the chorus members almost upstaged the central cast as they played their smaller parts. Michelle Jenkins distinguished herself as she metamorphosed from Cockney landlady to imperious lawyer to drunken French maid, adding an extra oomph to her caricatures by dint of her sheer stage presence. Tay Wee Chiat also displayed a disarming energy and subtle physical charisma as a porter, English punk and cabaret MC, wandering through the audience and seducing us to join in the Monte Carlo spirit. A shout-out also to Becky Ho, for her injection of sultriness into her various roles, especially the nightclub singer Dominique du Monaco - it takes a trooper to be that unabashedly sexually charged onstage in Singapore.

Unifying the whole roustabout is a rather ingenious set design, consisting of children's-book-style drawings on wall-sized panels, supported from behind by a crew of stagehands. There's lots of self-aware fun to be had in this - when we're on a train, the carriages jiggle on the tracks; a hand reaches out from behind a wardrobe door to accept hats and coats; a flat kettle can be plucked from a flat stove to steam open a telegram. It's an aesthetic that acknowledges the limitations of the space and works cheerfully with them.

But as you can probably tell from the way I'm gushing, there seem to be rather few limitations on the LaSalle kids otherwise. One finds it difficult to think of flaws, and indeed, one of the most glaring - that the conclusion of the musical is a bit of a let-down - is more a fault of the script than of the production.

Watching the college's musicals thus far has been an education, not just in the fact of the quality of the programme, but also in the classics of musical theatre which have never been staged here in a big way before. I'm definitely planning to follow their production calendar in the future. So should you - after all, as a school show, it's definitely affordable.

First Impression

Why on earth was the theatre half-full tonight? The LaSalle Level 3 Musical Theatre cohort is kicking some serious ass with this delightful musical farce, telling the tale of a man forced to take his dead uncle's corpse on a tour of Monte Carlo. The comedy is exuberant yet intimate, the singing is strident and professional, and the young actors glow with energy, charm and polish as they ham their way through this wonderfully zany story. And while leads like Zachary Tyler, Shaan Battersby and Ashlee Clement won me over, I couldn't help but be wowed on comparable levels by outstanding versatile ensemble actors like Michelle Jenkins and Tay Wee Chiat. Definitely a good night out.


"The few shows I've watched by these young people are pure entertainment; all-singing, all-dancing fiestas of real quality performed by real talents."

Credits

Director: Paul Lucas

Musical Director: Bronwyn Gibson

Choreographer: Fiona Baird

Vocal Coach: Amanda Colliver

Set Artwork and Costume Designer: Tori Sinclair

Set Production: Brian Leong

Lighting Designer: Michael Chan

Sound Designer: Varian Tan

Assistant Sound Designer: Keira Lee

Production Manager: Aaron Jeremiejczyk

Stage Manager: Chim Sin Yee

Assistant Stage Managers: Ratna Odata and Petrina Dawn Tan

Lighting Operator: Gillian Tan

Sound Operators: Aaron Yap and Matilda Chua

Follow-Spot Operators: Warran Taubitz, Choi Seong Bum and Muhammad Faddil Bin Ismail

Radio Mic: Noorasmidah Bte Rashid

Band: Bronwyn Gibson, Tony McGill, Chee Wah Yong and Jit Seng Lee

Cast: Ashlee Clement, Zachary Tyler, Shaan Battersby, Timothy Garner, Stephen Whiley, Becky Ho, Anette Sestol Andersen, Michelle Jenkins, Tay Wee Chiat and Kevin Lagrange

More Reviews by Ng Yi-Sheng

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.