Note: Stiffs is
the last show to perform in the Charles W. Raison Theatre,
and closing day of the production will be Remember When day,
a time for the community to gather and share their memories
of all the wonderful things that have happened in this space.
at the Charles Raison Theatre
By Liz Warren
It’s finally closing – the Charles W. Raison
Theatre, Sedona’s intimate theater space since 1990, will
witness its last production this month.
is only fitting, then, that the play take place in a mortuary
and that the audience members attend a funeral. Is it a metaphorical
funeral – a final send off to the theater?
Nah – it’s
just for laughs!
May 17 – June 3, is an original musical comedy that invites
audiences to take a fun-filled romp through usually solemn
grounds – courtesy of the team that brought Pump Boys and
Dinettes to Sedona a few years ago.
John Reynolds, Dev Ross and Debbie Winslow had a hit on their
hands with Pump Boys, which played in Sedona for a
month before traveling to play The Phoenix Theatre for three
weeks. Frequently stopped around town and hassled about staging
a revival, the cast members finally decided to answer the
demand by collaborating on an original musical.
Stiffs has been
in progress off and on for about three years. While it is
the first time the group has written together, Reynolds, Ross
and Winslow have worked together on several previous occasions,
and the play has benefited from their common comedic sensibility
and complementary aptitudes.
Winslow notes that Ross’s background in screenwriting
and understanding of plot, Reynolds’s focus on character and
motivation, Gilbert’s musicianship and her own comprehensive
background in musical theatre all came to bear on the success
of the collaboration.
But the group
isn’t just writing, composing and acting in Stiffs
– Reynolds is directing, Winslow is doing choreography and
Gilbert is doing some vocal coaching.
Musically, it’s an eclectic show, Winslow
said, running the gamut from boogie-woogie to standard musical
theatre fare to operetta to gospel. All four cohorts contributed
lyrically and musically to the song list, though Gilbert frequently
took the lead in that department. Winslow, however, wrote
the jitterbug number “Brighter Lights” largely by herself,
though Gilbert assisted with the intro and the bridge.
While most of the songs were constantly
being refined, at least one stayed the same throughout, the
ballad “Never Say Goodbye.”
“It was about a year after Chuck had died,”
said Winslow. “We were always close, and it hit hard. Michael
called me at work one day and asked me to tell him about my
feelings about Chuck. So I told him about how even though
he’s gone, I still feel like he’s here, watching over the
theatre. When we got off the phone, Michael wrote ‘Never Say
A live band will perform the songs, including
Walt Floury on keyboards, Richard Nix on bass, Johnny D.Z.
on guitar and Michael Bannister on drums.
Of course there’s more to Stiffs than
music alone – get to know the off-the-wall brothers Theodore
(Chris Vaglio) and Beauregard (Gilbert) Stiff, who keep the
family mortuary business alive with the help of in-house cosmetologist
Monique (Winslow). When a television commercial shoot runs
awry and a very important part of ‘Shorty Morty’ Manicotti’s
mob funeral turns up missing, complete chaos reigns at Stiffs
Funeral Home. Join the brothers, Manicotti’s widow, Sydney
(Ross) and Monique as they meet up with that touchy mistress,
Reynolds plays the commercial director,
and Theresa Hawkins plays the cleaning lady, but the core
cast is comprised of the show’s authors…except for Vaglio.
“Chris is such a breath of fresh air,”
said Winslow. “He makes us laugh and he brings so much to
Don’t miss MG Bradley Studio’s production
of Stiffs, opening May 17 and running Thursday – Saturday
nights at 7:30 p.m. through June 3. There will be 2:00 p.m.
Sunday matinee performances on May 27 and June 3. Tickets
are $12 for members of Sedona Arts Center and $15 for non-members
and are available for purchase at the SAC Gallery or Office
or by calling (520) 282-3809.
Stiffs is the last show to perform
in the Charles W. Raison Theatre, and closing day of the production
will be Remember When day, a time for the community to gather
and share their memories of all the wonderful things that
have happened in this space.
Stiffs may not be suitable for children
due to adult situations and humor.