Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Get lucky with musical at Arena Dinner Theatre

Offbeat musical next in series of productions

Up next for Arena Dinner Theatre is "Lucky Stiff."

Olivia Hennessey

Whatzup Features Writer

Published July 27, 2022

Sometimes, all you need is dessert and a show. Lucky enough, Arena Dinner Theatre provides both. 

The theater, which is nestled into the West Central neighborhood near downtown Fort Wayne, will be putting on its sixth production of the year, Lucky Stiff

The show is the first musical written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, who went on to write Ragtime and Anastasia

You can see this comedic farce on weekends from Aug. 5-20, with evening showtimes starting at 7 p.m. and a matinee on Aug. 14 at 2 p.m.

Outrageous tale

Lucky Stiff is one unique show. Based on the Michael Butterworth’s novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, the musical comedy follows Harry Witherspoon, a British shoe salesman who is set to inherit $6 million from his recently deceased uncle, a man named Tony Hendon, whom he had never met. 

Of course, there is a catch. Witherspoon must take his uncle’s corpse to Monte Carlo to do all the things he never got to do while alive: gambling, sky diving, deep sea fishing, and more. If he fails to complete these tasks, the money goes to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn, Hendon’s favorite charity. 

The show follows Witherspoon on his journey, where he is joined by a cast of characters who also hope to claim the money: a representative of the charity, his uncle’s gun-toting ex-girlfriend, and her brother. 

As you can imagine, things get quite complicated. 

The show’s director, Ben Wedler, is particularly excited for this performance, which is a rarity. 

“This is a premiere (in Fort Wayne), as far as I know,” Wedler said about the show in an email. “It’s not done very often.”

Cast of characters

The Lucky Stiff cast is comprised of local theater-lovers, and is relatively small, with six characters spending the most time onstage, in addition to some smaller roles and an ensemble. 

Witherspoon is played by Chris Rasor, with Leah Wedler as charity representative Annabel Glick, Renee Gonzalez as ex-girlfriend Rita LaPorta, and Justin Amos as Rita’s brother. 

Duke Roth plays dead uncle Tony Hendon, who sits in a wheelchair for the entirety of the show. 

According to Wedler, “(Roth) has the most stage time, but never says a word in the show.” 

Throughout the seven performances, these actors are sure to bring this interesting tale to life. 

“I’m excited to tell this heartwarming, funny, zany, musical to the people of Fort Wayne,” Wedler said. 

Wedler, who is Arena’s treasurer, is new to directing. 

“This is my first time directing any show,” he said. “That is another lovely thing about Arena, that we give people the chance to hone their skills as directors, actors, and technicians.”

Although this may be his directorial debut, Wedler is not new to the scene. 

“I am also the music director,” he said. “I have music directed about 100 shows in my career, but this is my first time directing a show of my own.”

Experience like no other

Arena Dinner Theatre isn’t your typical theater experience, as it pairs entertainment with something everyone can enjoy: food. 

Out of their seven productions each year, six include a full meal. Not this show, though. 

“During one production (a season) we do desserts only, and offer a lower ticket price, and Lucky Stiff is that production. We call it Arena Dessert Theatre,” Wedler said.

This year’s “dessert theatre” will include French apple pie served with ice cream, provided by Walnut Hill Events and Catering, who caters all meals and desserts for the theater. 

Something else about Arena Dinner Theatre is that there are no paid employees. 

“The board and everyone involved at the theater are volunteers,” Wedler said. “We have no employees of the theater. It is completely volunteer run.” 

When it comes to seating, Arena may not be the largest theater in Fort Wayne, but it still seats a healthy amount of guests. 

“We seat about 112 people at 14 tables in the theater, and you are never more that 50 feet from the stage,” Wedler said.

This short distance means that everyone has a great view of what’s happening on stage. 

“It’s a very intimate house.”

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