“Something Funny’s Going On” this month and next as Actors Co-op treats audiences to the delightful musical comedy bonbon that is Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Lucky Stiff.

Based on Michael Butterworth’s novel The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo, Ahrens’ deliciously farcical book has Englishman Harry Witherspoon (Brandon Parrish) inheriting a hefty $6,000,000 from his American uncle Anthony on one condition: The prim-and-proper Brit must take his murdered uncle’s corpse on one last vacation to Monte Carlo.

If this premise sounds a tad dark for your tastes, fear not. With a pair of captivating lead characters, a wacky cast of supporting players, and composer Flaherty and lyricist Ahrens at their clever, tuneful best, Lucky Stiff proves a bubbly, sparkly delight—especially as directed with abundant flair by Stephen Van Dorn and performed by with abundant verve by a multitalented bunch of Actors Co-op favorites.

We soon learn that the dear departed Anthony (Vito Viscuso as the deceased) had the misfortune of being accidentally shot by his Jersey-girl lady friend Rita La Porta (Rory Patterson) right after the illicit couple had embezzled six-mil in diamonds from her gangster hubby.

Unfortunately for Harry, there’s one teeny tiny catch in Uncle Anthony’s will.

Our bespectacled hero is forbidden to make even the slightest mistake while accompanying the wheelchair-bound corpse (body conveniently embalmed by a friendly taxidermist) through Monte Carlo. Should he goof even once, the entire six million will go to the Universal Dog Home Of Brooklyn!

Complicating matters for Harry on his European adventure is Annabel Glick (Claire Addams), the pretty young Dog Home representative who has followed Harry to Europe to make sure he trips up.

Completing the picture are Luigi Gaudi (David Atkinson), Harry’s flashy Italian tour guide; optometrist Vinnie De Ruzzio (Brian Habicht), Rita’s brother, on the run from the mob after being blamed by Rita for the embezzlement; and a whole bunch more zanies brought to wacky life by Gina D’Acciaro, Alastair James Murden, Selah Victor, and José Villarreal.

Leading man Parrish could not be more nerdishly charming as the bookish shoe salesman, and Adams’ cute-and-feisty Annabel is precisely the archenemy a dog-hater like Harry is sure to fall head-over-heels for.

Together, Parrish and Adams duet arguably the loveliest boy-hates-girl love song (“Nice”) ever written, Adams gets to solo the drop-dead-gorgeous “Times Like These (that has her proclaiming with utter sincerity, “In times like these, a girl could use a dog”), and both have the vocal chops to make each a subtle showstopper.

A delectably over-the-top Patterson give Rita a brassy demeanor to match her humongous head of Jersey hair, Habicht scores laughs as her hapless eye-doctor sibling, and Atkinson is’a quite’a fantastico as’a Luigi.

As for Uncle Anthony, even without words (or a breath in his body), Viscuso gets as many laughs as his alive-and-well castmates.

The remaining foursome create a dazzling array of characters, sport a dazzling array of costumes, and elicit a dazzling number of laughs.

As French nightclub chanteuse Dominique Du Monaco (among others), the delectable Victor gives Charo a run for her money avec accent français. (Can you say “coochy-coochy” in French?)

Murden is a Ray Bolger-esque charmer as a scrumptiously unctuous French emcee/singer à la Yves Montand, a British solicitor, and the tallest nun ever.

D’Acciaro vanishes hilariously into half a dozen roles, most notably a nosy English landlady and a drunken maid who mistakes Anthony for the laundry.

Finally, Villarreal goes sidesplittingly from uniform to uniform to uniform as a bellhop, a pair of waiters, and more.

Chief among director Van Dorn’s ingeniously staged hijinks is an event-packed day of shopping, gambling, museum-going, fishing, and in a couple of dazzlingly inspired moments, parachuting in miniature and scuba diving in bubble-filled seas.

Choreographer Julie Hall’s inventive, engaging dance numbers include a flashy Club Continentale nightclub sequence featuring the Emcee’s “Monte Carlo” and Dominique’s “Speaking French,” “Harry’s Nightmare: Welcome Back Mr. Witherspoon,” that turns Lucky Stiff’s cast of characters into their canine equivalents, and a couple of great big showstoppers to open each act.

Musical director/keyboardist Taylor Stephenson and his fellow backstage musicians Nic Gonzales, Malila Hollow, and Jorge Zuniga provide expert accompaniment throughout, with Warren Davis’s sound design insuring a pitch-perfect mix of instruments and subtly amped vocals.

Scenic designer Lex Gernon’s ingenious door-festooned set, Vicki Conrad’s gorgeously eclectic ‘80s costumes, Krys Fehervari’s multitude of flashy wigs, and Nicholas Acciani’s multitude of inventive properties are gorgeously lit by Lisa D. Katz.

Lucky Stiff is produced by Catherine Gray. E.K. Dagenfield scores points for his dialect coaching. Leticia Gonzalez is stage manager. James Ledesma and Derek Copenhaver are assistant stage managers.

Year after year for the past quarter century, Actors Co-op has made one thing abundantly clear. No Los Angeles membership theater company does intimately-staged musicals better than the Co-op. A tuneful treat from start to finish, Lucky Stiff ends Season 25 with a pizzazzy bang.

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David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
May 19, 2017
Photos: Michael Lamont

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