Something funny going on at the Ring: a “Lucky Stiff” review

Griffin Welti and Jenna Robinson star in UM's production of "Lucky Stiff" at the Ring Theatre. Photo credit: Lexi Rosenbloom

Something funny, indeed, was happening onstage at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre last week. From April 20-29, the Ring put on the musical “Lucky Stiff,” and the stiff got stiffer as the plot unfolded.

Considered a musical farce because of its hilarious entrances and exits, the Ring’s production proved it worthy of this title.

“Lucky Stiff” was the first collaboration of iconic composing duo Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music), who wrote well-known musicals like “Anastasia” and “Seussical.” This show is based on the 1993 novel by Michael Butterworth, “The Man Who Broke the Banks at Monte Carlo.”

Harry Witherspoon, a young English show salesman leading an incredibly boring life, must take the embalmed body of his murdered uncle on an elaborate vacation to Monte Carlo. Should he complete the week-long venture and pass his uncle off as alive, Witherspoon could inherit a fortune.

Throw in his uncle’s suspicious mistress and a dog-obsessed rival for the inheritance, and soon you won’t know who to root for in the hunt for $6 million.

Yash Ramanujam and Emily Song
Yash Ramanujam and Emily Song act in a scene together in the UM Ring Theatre production of "Lucky Stiff." Photo credit: Lexi Rosenbloom

Yash Ramanujam, a senior BFA musical theatre major and lead actor, masterfully connected Witherspoon’s character journey to the audience and developed a hilariously genuine chemistry with the other actors in the show.

His intentional physicality and commitment to the role was matched by Emily Song, a senior BFA musical theatre major, who played the insufferably-adorable love interest, Annabel Glick. Song’s confidence and strong vocals immediately connected the audience to Annabel’s side of the story.

The sibling duo, portrayed by senior BFA musical theatre major Jenna Robinson (Rita La Porta), and junior BFA musical theatre major Griffin Welti (Vinnie Di Ruzzio), wrapped the audience around their fingers and had them erupting in laughter with each entrance and exit.

Robinson’s incredible stage presence and comedic timing remained consistent throughout the entirety of the musical. Welti — who played Rita’s timid brother wrapped up in the fiasco by chance — perfectly complemented Robinson. The audience couldn’t resist falling in love with his character by the end of the show?

Yash Ramanujam and Will Sobel perform in the UM production of "Lucky Stiff" at the Ring Theatre.
Yash Ramanujam and Will Sobel perform in the UM production of "Lucky Stiff" at the Ring Theatre. Photo credit: Lexi Rosenbloom

The award for outstanding comedic timing must go to Julia DeSimone, a senior BFA musical theatre major who juggled multiple roles in the ensemble and stole the spotlight whenever she stepped into the scene. From the landlady to the drunk maid, her commitment to seemingly unimportant characters heightened the production’s comedy.

The rest of the ensemble deserves accolades for the musical’s seamless storytelling. Even the backstage crew joined in on the fun, holding props during scenes and smoothly moving set pieces during transitions. Technical elements like lighting and set design aided in the exaggerated telling of the story.

The cast couldn’t have put on the show without direction and musical direction by John Berst, choreography by Samantha Pazos, scenic design by Brandon M. Newton, costume design by Niiamar Fleder and lighting design by Stephen C. Jones.

Through mischief, music and laughs beyond compare, “Lucky Stiff” reminds us that it truly is “good to be alive.”