She has regaled Bangalore audiences for 23 years and now, Leila Alvares is back with a new comedy, Lucky Stiff. The musical will play in Chowdiah Hall on 31st August and 1st September and then at MLR Convention Center, Whitefield on 7th September. Lucky Stiff is based on the novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth. The musical features Rahael Thomas, Trina Dutt, Deepa Jacob, Lionel De Nazareth, Arvind Kasturi and Prem Koshy and others cast regulars.
The story is about Harry Witherspoon (Rahael Thomas), a shoe salesman, who is forced to take along the body of his recently murdered uncle on a vacation to Monte Carlo to be able to collect his inheritance of $6 million. Should he fail to pass off the corpse as alive in the course of the vacation, he is to forfeit the inheritance to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. The play predictably, is offbeat and insane. It is a cat-and-mouse murder mystery, played by a talented and bright eyed cast supported by lilting live music.
Leila Alvares invited Explocity to a rehearsal of her annual Broadway style extravaganza.
The magic on stage however doesn’t come without effort. The rigorous process lasts two months every year when the team works extensively to produce everything from the choreography to the music. Two months where apart from the play a family is forged between all those involved. A family that comes together each year out of their sheer love and passion for what they create.
Alvares, whose interest stems from her love for music, chooses each play on the basis of two things, first it must have engaging music and second that it must be a comedy. “The music has to speak to me “says Alvares in conversation with Explocity and “I don’t like sad stories, I want people to come and leave happy, leave humming or laughing.” This particular production came with only the piano score, and it was the job of Vivek Menzel to create a score that was more engaging. The score is built upon by the choreographers Alisha D’souza, Ritushi VK and Lionel De Nazareth.
Alvares’ talents however don’t just stop at envisioning and executing the production she brings to Bangalore. In fact, in talking to the cast nearly each one mentioned how she has an uncanny eye to spot talent, encouraging each of her performers to push themselves and try new things. Alisha D’souza told Explocity, “When I joined the Cause foundation right after 10th (Standard) as a dancer, I believe I had two left feet and as the years progressed I tried out a little acting and some singing and for the past few years choreographing. It’s been an amazing learning experience.”
Alvares founded the CAUSE Foundation as an organisation that looks at encouraging musical and theatrical talent in Bangalore, as well as raising money to donate to charitable causes.
The play sees Thomas in the lead role, an actor the magazine had written about as an upcoming star a few years ago. Thomas who had joined Alvares’ theatre group at 16, spoke about how his passion for theatre emerged in school. At eight, he watched one of Alvares’ musicals and eight years after, he joined her theatre company. He started his career as a singer and dancer. “Over the years I guess Leila saw something in me and gave me good roles,” he told Explocity. He believes that music has a natural way to speak to audiences and was why he is drawn to musical theatre and the CAUSE productions.
Prem Koshy, a veteran cast member (and partner of the legendary Koshy’s restaurant) told Explocity that he began acting in 1975. He then moved to the USA where he studied and pursued theatre, but there weren’t many roles for Indian actors in American plays. He came back to India and joined Alvares’ Frankenstein Monster Show and has enjoyed the journey ever since. Koshy spoke of how once after a performance he was approached by an audience member who told him that Koshy’s voice reminded him of Louis Armstrong--a compliment that has stayed with Koshy through the years.
Tickets for the show are available on Book My Show.