Delightful and inspired silliness reigns supreme in this musical farce by writer-lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty as a terrific cast delivers the hilarious lyrics and breezy songs with skill and flair. While the play has not an ounce of redeeming social significance, it is unabashedly good fun.
Loosely based on “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo,” along with a dose of the “Weekend at Bernie’s” movies thrown in, the story opens with lonely British shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon (William Seymour), who longs for a little more excitement in his life. He gets it in short order when a telegram arrives at his flat, informing him that an American uncle has died and left him an intriguing bequest.
The madcapery begins with the terms of the uncle’s will, which require Harry to accompany the dead uncle’s stuffed body on a vacation to Monte Carlo to collect the $ 6 million inheritance. There Harry encounters the hyperkinetic gunslinger Rita La Porta (Sandy Mulvihill), her optometrist brother Vinnie (Ron Marasco), the sultry Dominique Du Monaco (Theresa Hayes), the mysterious Luigi Gaudi (Jeff Austin) and a ramshackle assortment of maids, waiters, maitre d’s and other European types.
Most importantly, Harry also meets Annabel Glick (Jani Newman), the terribly earnest and earthy representative of the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn, which is Harry’s rival for the $ 6 million. Miss Glick follows Harry everywhere, singing heartfelt songs about dogs in despair.
Ahrens takes this slight, farcical premise to a higher level with witty and wonderful lyrics. She finds a comic twist in nearly every line, and the charming cast dives into the comedy with gusto. Ahrens and composer Flaherty find moments in each of the songs for the performers to shine, and shine they do.
Newman is clear-eyed and sweetly innocent as she sings a love ballad of longing for a doggy companion, then beguilingly combative as she pleads the case for canines everywhere who need “doggy food, doggy toys, doggy bags.” Seymour is sweet and winning as Witherspoon, milking the comedy for all it’s worth, but never losing grasp of his meek, lonely character.
Mulvihill does a lovely turn as the out-of-control Rita, who wreaks havoc wherever she goes. And Marasco is a comic whiz with the New Jersey optometrist thrown, bewildered and sputtering, into the whirlwind of Monte Carlo. Hayes is beguiling as the sexy Du Monaco, and cast members Austin, Christopher Sanders, Allison Mayer, Nicholas Freeman and even Timothey Fitzgerald as the corpse have funny bits.
Director Gary Gardner keeps the action moving at farcical speed, but also finds moments for each of the performers to shine. The only sour note is the set design (uncredited), which uses some cute tricks, but is thoroughly undermined by the slapdash quality of the construction. It adds an amateurish feel to the otherwise polished proceedings.