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Student-run show to open tonight

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Bob Ellis/staff photographer
“Lucky Stiff” players are Gabrielle White, front, as Dominique. Middle row, left to right, Raylynn Jones as the maid, Barbara Jo Williams as the landlady, Andrew Gordon as the dead body, Laura D’Andrea as a punk, Stephen Calkins as Luigi. Back row, Anita Pena as Annabel, Brian Franco as Harry, Stephanie Halbedel as the bellhop, Nicole Hobart as Rita and Josh Williams as Vinnie.

By KATIE HALL
Living and Leisure Editor

Susie Carr said the experience of directing the all student-run, SUNY Cortland show, “Lucky Stiff,” has been “amazing” because of the cast and crew.
“(They are) people who really want to be here and they are here because they love theater. It’s not a requirement for school, it’s not for credit. They are coming here on their free time,” said Carr, of Cortland.
The musical farce set to open tonight is the first summer production and all-student run show up on campus in eight years. It will take place 8 p.m. tonight and Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday in the lab theater at the Dowd Fine Arts Center on campus. Tickets are on sale at the door only.
“The last three shows that Cortland did were ‘Cinderella Inc.,’ ‘Hair’ and ‘Vanity.’ These were done in the ’90s,” said assistant director Josh Williams of Cortland.
Williams, a musical theater major, said the group is working under advisement from key faculty members who have donated their time to the production. He had asked college officials why more hasn’t been done through the college in the summer? Tom Hischak, a theater professor, told him he didn’t think there were enough students left in the area to participate, Williams said.
“I found that there were students around — a lot wanted to be involved in set building, props, directing, stage management, lighting, costuming,” he said.
Two weeks before school ended, Williams put out the call to organize the show. “I knew a lot of students had jobs and commitments back home. I wanted to get the show up and running so they could go back to those commitments.”
Cast members are composed of not only SUNY Cortland students, but community members and local students home from other colleges. Carr said the range of experience has been her biggest challenge.
“Some have never done musicals. Some have done them their whole lives. How to bring it together and make it a great show?” She credits the players with making her job easy.
“I give suggestions and then they make it their own. … They make it work. They are really good. I sort of oversee, but they make it happen.”
Billed as a wacky musical, the show is about a staid Englishman, Harry Witherspoon (Brian Franco), who stands to inherit a fortune if he takes his deceased, stuffed Uncle Anthony (Andrew Gordon) on a vacation to Monte Carlo. But Anthony’s former mistress, Rita (Nicole Hobart), is also after the money, as is the nerdy animal activist Annabel Glick (Anita Pena) who wants the money for her Brooklyn home for stray dogs.
“It’s coming along wonderfully,” Williams said. “We have been here from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. since the very first rehearsal, building the sets, getting everything together, working around the clock, so there’s not a mad push at the end.”
The group started working on “Lucky Stiff” in mid May. Scheduling has been the biggest challenge Williams has seen with everyone’s conflicts. But cast and crew have done their best to show up in between their responsibilities. “I can really see the passion for theater and the heart in everyone,” he said.
Jeff Van Damme, a musical theater major who just transferred to SUNY Cortland last semester, provides musical direction. He’s also the emcee and plays the keyboards in the band.
 “It’s different,” he said. “I have never done anything like this before. It’s nice to be part of the musical.”
Van Damme is especially enjoying mastering all the parts, not just one, and is anticipating how it will all pan out before the audience.
“I love this show, it’s fun,” said Nicole Hobart, home from SUNY Brockport where she is studying dentistry. She plays Rita, who provides comic relief.
Laura D’Andrea, a SUNY Cortland senior in the musical theater program, plays several characters: a vicious punk, a southern lady, a nun and an old Texan. She likes the vicious punk the best.
“I think I most identify with (the punk). It was what I was like in high school. She doesn’t take crap from anyone … and she gets to wear whatever she feels comfortable in. It’s pretty fun.”
Nate Wavle, a ninth grader at Cortland High, said he is not having a problem fitting in with the college students. He is a drum player in the band and has to transport his drum set back and forth each day. “The biggest challenge in this show is getting the equipment here.”