Lucky Stiff Opens at Arena Dinner Theatre Tonight!
As they emerged from the special programming they shared during the pandemic, Arena Dinner Theatre’s Board of Directors began looking for shows to do in the seasons to come. With an imminent retirement ahead for Purdue Fort Wayne’s Craig Humphrey, he spoke with board member Ben Wedler about the possibility of staging the musical Lucky Stiff, based on the book The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth. Unfortunately, Humphrey passed away earlier this year, but a plan was in place for a successor.
“Craig Humphrey had come to me awhile ago and said he was planning to retire and had always wanted to do Lucky Stiff,” Wedler said. “He thought Arena was the perfect spot for it, and I agreed. Not too many people know the show, but he loved it and I loved it so we decided to put it on at Arena. He was set to direct before he found out he had cancer. Since I was already set to be musical director, I was asked that if anything happened to Craig, if I would step in to direct. We’re dedicating the show to Craig.”
Although a music teacher at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School and a music director for many productions over the years, Wedler is a first-time director for this production. It’s fitting that this should make his debut with Lucky Stiff, not only because he loves the show but because it was also the first musical written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.
“Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty met at a Broadway writing seminar and workshop and decided to write together, and they meshed so well they decided to keep working together. Lucky Stiff was the first one they wrote together. They later went on to write Once on This Island and Ragtime.”
The musical, which tells the story of a young man, Harry Witherspoon, who is informed that he can inherit millions from his uncle provided he takes said uncle on a lavish vacation to Monte Carlo. So, yes, one of the show’s leads in a dead dude in a wheelchair. It’s just those kinds of hilarious situations that make the play so entertaining, Wedler said.
“It’s a farce, and there aren’t many musical farces except maybe A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I just love farces in general.”
Chris Rasor, who plays Harry Witherspoon, “spends almost as much time on stage as the dead guy in the chair,” Wedler said, and Leah Heet Wedler, who is a teacher at Saint Jude’s and is married to Ben Wedler, provides a foil and (spoiler alert) possible love interest for Harry. The production, which runs August 5-20 with two Sunday matinee performances, is somewhat different than most at Arena Dinner Theatre, featuring a dessert rather than a full meal, a change that also brings down the ticket price from the usual $45 to $35. The dessert for Lucky Stiff is French Apple Pie with homemade ice cream, which makes the audience pretty lucky too.
To purchase tickets, visit artstix.org or call (260) 422-4226.