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Curt Arnold talks ‘Lucky Stiff’, upcoming Cleveland AIDS benefit show

Lucky Stiff performances benefit AIDS organizations in Cleveland, Akron
Lucky Stiff performances benefit AIDS organizations in Cleveland, Akron*cartoonist Chuck Ayers ("Crankshaft")*

Each year, a group of talented performers gathers to put on a show to benefit the AIDS organizations in Cleveland. This year, they take on “Lucky Stiff”, a wacky musical with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty, and story based on “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” by Michael Butterworth. The Cleveland performance will play on Monday, August 26 at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood at 8:00 p.m.

Shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon lives a luckless life, toiling in obscurity, until an unexpected telegram turns his life around: a long-lost uncle has died suddenly, leaving Harry $6 million! There’s just one catch: Harry has to bring Uncle Tony on the luxurious Monte Carlo vacation that he never got to take when he was alive!

Director Curt Arnold had this to say about this year’s shenanigans.

Kate Miller: Why did you choose "Lucky Stiff" for this year's production?
Curt Arnold: After each year's benefit, we start looking at shows to choose for the next summer. Over the years, we've found that our greatest success (financially) has been with material that is a bit campy and over-the-top, often involving a drag role or two. We have also assembled an informal "company" of performers with whom we like to work, and who perform well under the conditions we set, which is very limited rehearsal time and anything-can-go-wrong performance conditions. So we often try to find projects that feature roles for these folks. "Lucky Stiff" is an early work by the authors of "Ragtime", “Seussical" and "Once on This Island", and it's a terrific show that's been on our list of potential productions for awhile. It's a funny story with some catchy songs, and our cast is going to be terrific in it.

KM: In what ways have you seen the annual benefit grow and change over the years?
CA: Happily, the biggest change has been the attendance in both Akron and Cleveland. Since 2003 when my partner Jenniver Sparano and I began organizing the benefit, the audience numbers have doubled. Our first year, we made a total of about $5,800 for both cities combined. Last year, we broke all records and raised over $14,000 in ticket sales, raffle income and concessions for both cities. We're hoping to top that this year!

KM: What year is this for the project?
CA: This year is the 12th annual benefit musical. In 2002, sort of on a whim, a group of friends decided to produce a staged reading of the early-AIDS-era musical "Falsettos" and to donate the Cleveland proceeds to the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland and the Akron proceeds to the Community AIDS Network (Jenniver and I were not involved as producers on that production.) Over the following year, several of those involved moved out of the northern Ohio area, and Jenniver and I started thinking that it might be a good idea to do another benefit show, so we gathered several friends and produced "Forever Plaid" in 2003. We had no idea that it would become an annual event, but here we are going strong in 2013 with no plans to stop anytime soon! We feel very lucky to be acquainted with so many talented people - actors, singers, musicians and technicians - who willingly donate their time and talents to these causes.

Our history includes “Falsettos” (2002), “Forever Plaid” (2003), “Nunsense, A-Men!” (2004), “Nunsense II: The Second Coming” (2005), “Pump Boys and Dinettes” (2006), “Ruthless!” (2007), “Schoolhouse Rock LIVE!” (2008), “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” (2009), “Gilligan’s Island: The Musical” (2010), Jaqueline Susann’s “Valley of the Dolls” (2011), and “CLUE: The Musical” (2012).

KM: How have you seen past contributions from the shows make a direct impact on AIDS organizations in the area?
CA: One of the things that was expressed to us by a former Executive Director of one of the charities
(and which has always stuck with me) is that so much of the money that comes to these organizations through grants and other allocated funds also comes with stipulations about how it must be spent. The money that we raise comes with no such limitation and can be used by them in any way that is most helpful to their ongoing mission. If this means buying office supplies or paying the electric bill or getting a bus pass for a client, we are helping keep them in operation and focused on their mission of help.

KM: How can people get more info and tickets?
CA: For the Cleveland performance on Monday, August 26, tickets and info are available by calling the AIDS Taskforce at 216-621-0766, extension 247; going online to https://co.clickandpledge.com/advanced/default.aspx?wid=68262, or there is also a public Facebook Event with details at https://www.facebook.com/events/275350555940921/.

There is also an Akron performance (which will benefit Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative) on Monday, August 19 at the Weathervane Playhouse. Tickets and info for this location are available from the Weathervane box office at 330-836-2626 or by going online to http://www.weathervaneplayhouse.com/lucky-stiff-2013-08-19.

"Lucky Stiff"
To benefit the AIDS TaskForce of Greater Cleveland
MONDAY, AUGUST 26, 2013
Beck Center for the Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood
Curtain time is 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: $25 with VIP tickets available for $50 and $250

"Lucky Stiff"
To benefit CANAPI (Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative)
MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2013
Weathervane Community Playhouse
1301 Weathervane Lane in Akron
Curtain time is 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $21

The “Lucky Stiff” Cast includes:
DAN FOLINO* Harry Witherspoon
CAITLIN ELIZABETH REILLY* Annabel Glick
AMIEE COLLIER Rita La Porta
PATRICK CIAMACCO Vinnie DiRuzzio
ROB GIBB Luigi Gaudi
PJ TOOMEY Tony Hendon
TRICIA BESTIC Ensemble
BRIAN BOWERS Ensemble
JONATHAN KRONENBERGER Ensemble
RACHEL SPENCE Ensemble
*Actor appears courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association (AEA), the union of actors and stage managers.

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