Review by Neal Weaver
Through June 18
It’s hard to imagine a more far-fetched plot than the one that animates this zany musical by Lynn Ahren (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music), based on The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth. The hero is Harry Witherspoon (Brandon Parrish), a rather colorless young Englishman who works in a shoe-store in East Grinstead. He’s in a rut, and his only distinction is the fact that, at the sight of him, even the mildest-mannered dogs turn slightly feral. They pursue him endlessly, and make his life miserable. Then he’s summoned to the office of a rather snooty solicitor (Alastair James Murden) who informs him that he has just inherited six million dollars from an American uncle he never knew he had. But there is a catch. He must carry out, to the letter, the stipulations of his uncle’s will. Otherwise the six million will go to a Brooklyn shelter for homeless dogs. That settles it: he’ll do anything rather than let the money go to the dogs.
He’s then told of the rather bizarre conditions of the will. It seems that his uncle had a lifelong desire to visit Monte Carlo, but never was able to do so. So he’s had himself stuffed by a taxidermist, and Harry must take his corpse (Vito Viscuso) on a Monte Carlo vacation, complete with gambling, fishing and sky-diving.
Meanwhile, Rita Laporta (Rory Patterson), who accidentally shot said uncle, is convinced, for reasons too complicated to go into, that the six million rightfully belongs to her, and she takes off for Monte Carlo, dragging along her optometrist brother (Brian Habicht), in an attempt find the uncle and get the cash. Also in hot pursuit is a winsome young woman named Annabel (Claire Adams), an employee of the Brooklyn dog shelter, who’s also intent on getting the money, despite the fact that she seems to have taken a shine to Harry.
Wild and wooly adventures follow, involving gangsters, Hari Krishnas, a nun, a sexpot named Dominique (understudy Catherine Gray, who also happens to be the producer), the corpse in his motorized wheelchair, a bearded Arab, a mercenary waiter (Jose Villareal), a pistol-packing Rita, and a drunken chambermaid (Gina D’Accario) who unwittingly kidnaps the peripatetic corpse, which leads to a spectacular chase scene. Stimulated by his wild experiences, colorless Harry sings, dances, gambles, and comes into his own.
Director Stephen Van Dorn keeps the action lively and the pace frantic, and the versatile ensemble plays a wide array of characters, in a welter of costumes, wigs, mustache and other accoutrements. Parrish is an amiably long-suffering Harry, Patterson’s Rita is a blundering loose cannon, and Adams contributes a modest charm as Annabel. Viscuso manages to remain convincingly dead, despite the indignities heaped upon him. And Gray contributes a stylish musical number with formidable bumps and grinds.
Vicki Conrad’s costumes are eccentric and colorful, and Lex Gernon’s clever set combines interesting architectural features with the several slammable doors any self-respecting farce requires. Julie Hall provides the goofy choreography and the capable music direction is by Taylor Stephenson.
The Actors Co-op’s David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., on the campus of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; additional Sat. matinees on May 20 and June 17 at 2:30 p.m. (323) 462-8460 or www.ActorsCo-op.org. Running time: 2 hours with one 10-minute intermission.