In continuing with a series we’ve been doing that highlights MTI shows which are based on classic literature – including novels, plays and children’s books – today we’re featuring LUCKY STIFF.
LUCKY STIFF was the now famous writing team (Stephen) Flaherty and (Lynn) Ahrens‘ (RAGTIME, DESSA ROSE*, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND) first produced musical. This zany and offbeat show is adapted from the mystery crime novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth, published in 1983. The story follows British shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon as his boring life takes an unusual twist when he inherits six million dollars from his Uncle Tony – on one condition. Harry must take his uncle’s corpse around in a wheel chair on a fantastic, but very specific, Monte Carlo vacation for one week. If he doesn’t do it right, all of the money gets donated to his uncle’s favorite charity: The Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Unfortunately for Harry, he’s not the only one who wants the six million dollars. Tony was shot by his lover Rita, she didn’t mean to kill him. Together they stole the money from her husband. She comes to Monte Carlo with her brother to track Harry, and the stolen diamonds, down. Annabel Glick has also come in hopes of getting the money – she’s a representative from the Dog Home, and if Harry makes one mistake, the money is hers. Under these circumstances, a farce ensues that ends when Uncle Tony reveals the man in the wheelchair isn’t him – he’s not actually dead! He and Rita reunite after she apologizes for trying to shoot him. Despite their initial hatred for each other, Harry and Annabel end up together as well. For a full plot synopsis, click here.
The most obvious change between Butterworth’s novel and Flaherty and Ahrens’ musical is the title. This may seem like a small difference, but it actually is a good example of authors knowing the medium for which they are writing. As a general rule, musicals with shorter titles are easier to sell. Think of your favorite shows – how many of them have long, wordy titles? Even A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM is shortened to FORUM in conversation, and sometimes in marketing. HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING* is commonly referred to just as HOW TO SUCCEED. Sure, there are always counter examples, but for the most part, while a novel can get by with a drawn out title, musicals keep things snappy.
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Cristo is also the name of both a famous movie and song that are not directly connected to the story of Butterworth’s novel or LUCKY STIFF. In some cases, keeping the same title ups the recognition of the piece for fans of the original work. However, in an instance like this where the novel is the least known property with that title, the authors made the wise decision to make their show more unique by adapting the title along with the story.
LUCKY STIFF is a fun and funny musical that has the honor of being the first piece produced by a very distinguished team. LUCKY STIFF may be lesser known to audiences than Flaherty and Ahrens’ Broadway hits, but it’s still a delightful treat for fans of the team’s work. LUCKY STIFF has a medium sized cast, but is not at all dance heavy. It’s the perfect option for theaters looking for a show that gives the audience a good time, and it has the added benefit of coming from a writing team that has produced a number of audience favorites.
To learn more about licensing, hear clips from the show, or find out about cast and orchestra size, click here.
*DESSA ROSE and HOW TO SUCCEED have both been featured in the MTI Shows in Literature series. Click the titles to read those posts.