The West Fargo High School (WFHS) Theatre Department will present the mad-cap musical whodunit, "Lucky Stiff," on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 18, at 2:30 p.m., directed by Adam Pankow.
"Lucky Stiff" is a zany, offbeat, and funny murder-mystery musical farce, complete with slamming doors, mistaken identities, six million dollars in diamonds, and a corpse in a wheelchair. The story revolves around an unassuming English shoe salesman who is forced to take the body of his recently murdered Atlantic City uncle on a vacation to Monte Carlo. Should he succeed in passing his uncle off as alive, Harry Witherspoon stands to inherit $6,000,000. If not, the money goes to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn, or else to the gun-toting wife of the casino owner.
When considering this year's first performance choice, Pankow said he had a recollection of the play he saw 10 years ago at a community theatre in Grand Forks. "I thought it was a really entertaining evening of theatre, so I decided to revisit the piece as I was looking at scripts for this fall production, keeping all my options open in terms of the type of show - small musical, children's theatre, comedies, dramas. It was the fast and furious action and strong, unique characters that moved this show to the top of the pile. It was also important to find a show that stood in contrast to the rest of the season's offerings and would be an enjoyable, but challenging experience for our current crop of talented students."
Pankow said another aspect he liked about "Lucky Stiff" is that it is all about extremes. "The plot is at once surreal, but at other times, familiar; the characters are often over-the-top, but stay surprisingly grounded."
In addition, the gambling-themed set includes giant playing cards, slot machines, poker chips and dice that transform into the various locations established in the script. Even the time period of the late 1980s/early 1990s has been exaggerated with over-teased hair, liberal application of eye shadow, tight-rolled pants and shoulder pads. "These are real characters with highly unusual situations and surroundings," Pankow noted. "I know the audiences will enjoy watching the play unfold simply for the absurdity of it all."
"Lucky Stiff" has a cast of 32 students, grades 9-12, with an additional 18 individuals serving on the show's student production team. Five musicians under the direction of Sue Jordahl and Karen Morrison provide the music for this wild and hilarious romp. Students and parents have built an oversized, casino-esque set and a collection of eclectic costumes for the multitude of eccentric characters.
Pankow said the show presented "a significant amount of possibility in terms of the number of people who could be cast. Since this show includes a wide-range of lead, supporting and featured characters, it made sense to include more students than we might typically cast in this fall production." The cast also includes one student from Community High School, a first for a WFHS theatre production. Pankow noted that he originally aimed to cast about 25, but the talent pool and the interest in theatre at WFHS is so large, that he couldn't stay within that initial goal. The winter musical "Cats," will engage even more, with a cast size of approximately 50-60 individuals, so more students will be able to participate. "I know I am incredibly blessed with a fantastic group of students, parents and colleagues who unite together for an artful cause."
Pankow is also quick to point out that the theatre department is fortunate to have the support of many businesses and other individuals within our community. "Because of this overwhelming and continued commitment to the program, I am confident in the success of "Lucky Stiff" - it has made the experience extra special and memorable. It has been a blast to put together with lots of laughs throughout the rehearsals. These laughs are sure to spill out into the audience during our run.
We also hope that people leave the show excited and inspired by the teamwork and artistry that is displayed on our stage and that this excitement will add to the buzz about this year's musical, "Cats," and our department in general."
Performances will be held in the West Fargo High School Theatre, located in the high school at 801 9th St. E. All seats are $7 general admission and available at the door.