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What a stiff

April 2, 2011
By Cindy Votruba - With farce, zany characters and a colorful setting, SMSU theater takes on its last big show of the season ( , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - It's splashy, fast-paced and the main plot is a nephew taking his dead uncle around Monte Carlo in a wheelchair in order to inherit millions.

The Southwest Minnesota State University theater department is presenting the musical "Lucky Stiff" at 7:30 p.m. April 7-9 and 15-16 and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 17 in the SMSU Fine Arts Theatre.

The show is being directed by SMSU theater professor Sheila Tabaka.

Taking on the role of Harry Witherspoon, the male lead, is SMSU theater alumnus Ryan Nelson. He said he was asked by Tabaka and fellow theater professor, Nadine Schmidt, to come back to his alma mater for the final show on the SMSU Mainstage.

"They thought it would be cool to have a guest actor," Nelson said, referring to the fact that the last Mainstage show "Doubt" was directed by a guest director. "I haven't been in town for a long time." The last time Nelson was on the SMSU Mainstage was in 2005 for "Macbeth."

Since he left SMSU, Nelson has performed in different theaters in the Twin Cities and Las Vegas and has done some voiceover work.

SMSU music education and music performance major Catherine Lucken stars opposite Nelson as Annabel Glick.

"I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Ryan...I'm learning a lot just being onstage with him," Lucken said. "It's been wonderful having the chance to work with these wonderful people."

Marshall High School senior Austin Soupir agrees, saying there's a "ton of people" to look up to who are in the show.

When he read through the script, Nelson thought it was really funny.

"It's a show about a poor English shoe salesman," Nelson said. Witherspoon learns in a telegram that his uncle has died and is leaving him $6 million. His uncle's one request is to be taken on "one last trip." But if Witherspoon doesn't succeed, the money will go to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn.

Marshall High School senior Austin Soupir, who plays Luigi Gaudi, said the show is set in Monte Carlo, France, which adds to the comedic nature.

"I love the humor in it," Soupir said. "It's a good mix, slapstick, dry humor, hidden jokes." And, Soupir added, it's a nice change from the past shows he's been in, which ranged from "happy-go-lucky" to dark.

With a brightly-colored set, "Lucky Stiff" has been a fun show to do, the actors said.

"It's going to be a colorful show (to) pump up the comedy," Nelson said.

"It's keeping it playful and light and not so sinister taking this dead guy around," theater student David Kugel said of the set.

Lucken describes "Lucky Stiff" as a "comedy farce with singing and dancing."

"It's kind of off the wall, it caught me off-guard," Lucken said.

Some of the actors in the show have several different parts in the musical. Kugel is playing seven different roles during the course of the show. Of those seven characters, he said three are speaking roles, a couple are just movement and the rest are focals.

"We have a limited supply of guys," Kugel said.

But, Kugel said, it's been really fun mixing the voices together in the ensemble. Plus, he added, audience members can relate to certain characters.



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