Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

You Should Be So Lucky

Charles Busch
Above The Stag Theatre

Lucas Livesy as Walter, Chris Woodley as Christopher, Colin Appleby as Mr Rosenberg, Ellen Verenieks as Lenore and Stacy Sobieski as Polly Credit: Polly Hancock
Chris Woodley as Christopher and Colin Appleby as Mr Rosenberg Credit: Polly Hancock
Lucas Livesy as Walter and Chris Woodley as Christopher Credit: Polly Hancock
Ishani Basu as Wanda Wang, Chris Woodley as Christopher and Ellen Verenieks as Lenore Credit: Polly Hancock

Above the Stag’s Artistic Director had apparently been trying for some time to get the rights to mount a production of this 1994 play by Charles Bush. I’m glad he succeeded for it is hilariously funny.

It centres on Christopher, a New York electrolysist, a depilatory technician—a guy you go to for unwanted hair removal. This one is in need of some customers. He is shy and a bit agoraphobic, living alone in a house plastered with oriental bits and pieces he’s gathered. He paints faces on dried chunks of yam as a hobby and refers to them as his friends. He’s a sad case but good-looking, kind hearted and likeable.

When a millionaire Jewish financier collapses on the street in front of his Greenwich Village apartment, Christopher looks after him. Discovering what Christopher’s job is, Cy Rosenberg asks for a treatment. He is recently widowed, estranged from his daughter and feeling equally isolated.

Despite the intrusion of Christopher's sister Polly, a self-dramatising, out-of-work actress who has been kicked out by her boyfriend, Cy keeps coming back for more treatment and befriends Christopher.

When Polly gets invited to a big charity ball she decides Christopher should go too. With his society connections, she gets him invited, fixes him up with a tuxedo, complete with silver bowtie, and provides a white Rolls Royce to whisk him off Cinderella-like to the ball (though with a promise it won’t turn into a pumpkin). It is there, confident temporarily, that Christopher meets nice Jewish boy Walter, who it seems is equally keenly attracted.

Just before Walter arrives for their first date, Cy (who has only just taken on board that Christopher is gay) suddenly dies from a heart attack in the middle of a treatment which creates a situation of hysterical panic.

But that’s not the end of the fairy-tale plotting. Cy’s left him half his fortune—though his daughter Lenore contests it. So battle commences: but Cy Rosenberg isn’t out of the picture. White satin suited, he’s around to give guidance.

It’s a comedy—you don’t have to take any of it seriously, though I’m sure you might recognise some of the characters. If the playing, like the plot, sometimes goes a bit OTT, that’s absolutely appropriate because it is funny.

It is twelve years since Christopher moved into his apartment so he’s no spring chicken, but Chris Woodley gives a charming, youthful naivety and a big-eyed touch of campness; he gives a lovely double take when Cy says he has never found him effeminate.

Stacy Sobieski sister Polly, always performing, especially in her private life, over-emotes to match and Ellen Verenieks gives Lenore the bitchy hardness such a stock character demands.

They are all made all the funnier by the restrained performances from Colin Appleby as Cy Rosenberg and Lucas Livesy as Walter. There is also a stylish cameo of a television show host, played by several actors through the run. I saw Ishani Basu: another forceful performance.

David Shield’s carefully considered set may make the layout of Christopher’s apartment unlikely (blame that on this theatre’s configuration) but he overdresses the clutter to just the right extent to make it funny. Andrew Beckett’s production keeps an eye on pace and structure while still seeming to liberate the actors.

This is teamwork that builds laughter. You don’t have to be gay to find this light-hearted Cinderella story funny. If you have a relaxed sense of humour, you’ll enjoy it.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton