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Lucky Stiff

Original Cast Album Cover

Musical in 2 Acts and 10 Scenes: Music by Stephen Flaherty: Book & Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens; Suggested by the play The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth 

Playwrights Theatre Off-Broadway, 25 April, 1988 (15 perfs)


This murder mystery farce propels a mild-mannered English shoe clerk into a lunatic mix of murdered Atlantic City croupier, his near-sighted jilted mistress, her hen-pecked brother and several hundred (off-stage) dogs. Witherspoon will inherit six million dollars if he can successfully go on holiday with his uncle, the late departed croupier, in Monte Carlo for a week. If he doesn't pull it off, the money goes to the Universal Dogs Home of Brooklyn - and if there is one thing in life that Harry hates, it's dogs! With a tuneful score and a well-oiled plot, plus the ultimate happy ending, Lucky Stiff guarantees hilarity for one and all.



Prologue: Ten characters warn the audience of the numerous plot twists to come. As they sing, one of them, a man wearing dark glasses and silk pajamas, is murdered, and the cast blithely steps around and over him to finish the number.

Shy, unworldly British shoe salesman, Harry Witherspoon, spends his Friday night taking inventory in the shoe shop and dreaming of a better life. Meanwhile, in his dog-ridden boarding house in East Grinstead, Harry's landlady and her motley crew of boarders intercept a telegram meant for him.

In a London solicitor's office, Harry learns he has inherited six million dollars from Anthony Hendon, an American uncle whom he has never met. The only condition is that Harry must take Uncle Anthony's corpse on one last vacation to Monte Carlo. If Harry is unwilling to do it, the money will go to Uncle's favourite charity, the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. With trepidation, Harry accepts a cassette tape of instructions to follow, a mysterious heart-shaped box to guard, and Uncle's well-preserved corpse, wearing sunglasses and seated elegantly in a wheelchair.

Travelling to Monte Carlo on the luxurious Train Bleu, a terrified Harry tries to fend off curious fellow travellers. Harry meets Luigi Gaudi, a flashy Italian who offers his services as a guide; he also notices a mysterious young woman, who appears to be watching him and taking notes.

Meanwhile, in Atlantic City, an optometrist, Vinnie Di Ruzzio, is visited by his extremely near-sighted sister, Rita La Porta. Rita reveals to her brother that she has accidentally murdered her lover while not wearing her glasses; that the six million dollars in diamonds she and her lover had embezzled from her husband is gone; that her lover was Harry's Uncle Anthony; and that the heart-shaped box full of jewels is now en route to Monte Carlo! Rita also reveals to her shocked brother that she has implicated him in her schemes. Together, they embark for Monte Carlo to find Harry and retrieve the money before Rita's gangster husband does something nasty.

Harry has managed to get Uncle to their suite at the Hotel de Paris, and now tries to convince himself that everything will be fine. Pushing Uncle through the streets of Monte Carlo, Harry once again fends off Luigi Gaudi, but soon realises he's being followed by the young woman from the train. He confronts her and learns that she is Annabel Glick, a representative of the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Annabel tells Harry that as a result of a loophole in Uncle's will, she is there to try and win the six million dollars for the Dog Home. Harry vows not to relinquish the money to a pack of canines, and Annabel declares war.

Vinnie and Rita arrive at Nice Airport, and the desperate Vinnie calls his wife in New Jersey, to explain where he is and why.

After a hectic day, Harry, Uncle and the dogged Miss Glick arrive at a glamorous French nightclub. The MC welcomes them and introduces the featured performer, sexy Dominique du Monaco, who turns out to be a special surprise for Harry, courtesy of Uncle Anthony. Dominique pulls Harry and the rest of the audience into her dance routine, but notices that Annabel is not joining in the festivities. In the romantic, couple-filled nightclub, Annabel Glick sits alone. Taking out her knitting, she yearns for what she misses most.

Rita La Porta has disguised herself as a maid, and now searches Harry's room at the Hotel de Paris for the heart-shaped box full of diamonds. When Harry returns with Uncle from his evening at the nightclub, Rita hides in the closet. Harry leaves the corpse in the hotel room, and goes gambling, followed by Miss Glick. Squinting from the closet, Rita can barely make out the shape of a man in a wheelchair. Can it be that she didn't kill her lover after all? Rita tucks away her unbecoming glasses, and steps out to face Tony Hendon.

Harry Witherspoon is on a winning streak at the casino, when a livid Rita La Porta arrives. She has Uncle with her, as well as a gun. She has discovered that her lover is very dead indeed. And now she wants her money. Or Harry's life.


Harry manages to break away from Rita, and he and Annabel grab Uncle and run. Rita's gun goes off accidentally and her brother tries to restrain her, but Rita turns the crowd on Vinnie, and escapes after Harry.

Chaos ensues as Harry and Annabel try to hide from Rita and protect Uncle; in the fray, a drunken maid mistakes Uncle for the laundry and wheels him away. When Harry and Annabel discover him missing, they're frantic. If they can't find Uncle they'll lose everything! All around Monte Carlo, Annabel, Harry, Rita and Vinnie search for each other, the heart-shaped box and the missing corpse. During this sequence, Vinnie meets the shapely Dominique du Monaco, who is most interested in his search for the money.

Exhausted and defeated, Annabel and Harry return to Harry's room. Uncle has vanished, and with him, their hopes. Harry will have to return to East Grinstead; and Annabel's beloved Dog Home will surely close. Harry and Annabel open a bottle of Uncle's champagne, and let down their guard.

Harry has a horrible nightmare, in which everyone wears a dog's head, and tells him that he must return to his old life of cold stew, shoe-selling, and dogs.

Waking up with a start, Harry is aghast to find himself in bed with Annabel Glick. They're both embarrassed, shy and hung over. But as Annabel starts to leave, the drunken maid enters, and returns Uncle. Harry and Annabel are jubilant, until the door opens again. And this time it's Rita La Porta, gun in hand. Rita now wears her glasses. She takes a close look at the corpse in the wheelchair and suddenly sees that this is not her lover, Tony Hendon, but a dead stranger! She whirls on Harry and Annabel, gun drawn ...

In the nick of time, Luigi Gaudi comes to the rescue. But Luigi is not who he seems. He reveals that he is, in fact, Harry's Uncle Anthony, and he explains how the man in the chair was murdered and why Harry was dispatched to Monte Carlo. Uncle Anthony also reveals that the six million dollars in diamonds is actually sewn inside the corpse, and the heart-shaped box contains the heart of the dead man, whose last wish was that his heart be buried at sea.

Now, Vinnie bursts into the room with Dominique du Monaco, both dressed as maids. Vinnie demands the diamonds, telling the group that he plans to start a new life in Europe with Dominique. Calmly, Rita hands him the heart-shaped box (containing the dead man's heart), and Vinnie and Dominique exit.

In a burst of passion, Rita and Tony forgive each other; they take the diamond-laden corpse, and depart.

Harry and Annabel are left alone, with only Uncle's infallible system for roulette, an all-expense paid week in Monte Carlo, and each other. Harry locks the door. And in a rare moment for both of them, he and Annabel decide to stay on together for Uncle's all-expense paid week, and see what happens.


6 men, 4 women

Musical Numbers:

  1. Something Funny's Going On - Company
  2. Mr Witherspoon's Friday Night - Harry, Landlady, Boarders, Uncle Anthony
  3. Uncle's Last Request - Harry, Solicitor, Uncle Antthony
  4. Good To Be Alive - Harry, Company
  5. Rita's Confession - Rita, Vinnie
  6. A Woman In My Bathroom
  7. Lucky - Harry, Luigi
  8. Dogs Versus You - Annabel, Harry
  9. A Day Around Town - Dance
  10. Phone Call - Vinnie
  11. Monte Carlo - Monte Carlo M.C.
  12. Speaking French - Dominique, Harry, Company
  13. Times Like This - Annabel
  14. Fancy Meeting You Here - Rita, Company
  15. Somehting Funny's Going On (reprise) - Company
  16. Him, Them, It, Her - Harry, Company
  17. Nice - Annabel, Harry
  18. Welcome Back, Mr. Witherspoon (the Nightmare) - Company
  19. Confession #2 - Uncle Anthony, Harry, Annabel, Rita
  20. Fancy Meeting You Here (reprise) - Rita, Uncle Anthony, Company
  21. Finale: Good To Be Alive - Harry, Annabel, Company

Scenes and Settings

The present. England, Atlantic City and Monte Carlo


Percussion; piano; keyboard; bass guitar


Cast recording - Varèse Sarabande - VSD 5461