Book: Jeffrey Lane
Music and Lyrics: David Yazbek
Director: Jerry Mitchell
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
It’s the new season in Milton Keynes and it certainly is a different ‘season’ in Beaumont-Sur-Mer on the vibrant French Riviera, home of casino culture. Our suave swindler Lawrence Jameson makes a living by cheating wealthy women out of their cash. But this time things are going to be a tad different for Jameson when young charmer from the U.S, one Freddy Benson, arrives on the scene and threatens to upset the apple cart! The two conmen try to work together but both aim to win a bet that would mean the other must leave town should he lose. That, in essence, is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
What really makes Dirty Rotten Scoundrels work is the relationship between Jameson and Benson, played by Michael Praed and Noel Sullivan respectively. There is a definite chemistry between these two that makes you think they are having a ball as well as amusing us. Both actors have incredible comic timing, in different ways, but also have excellent voices that really bring out Yazbek’s clever score. Praed does the slick charm to a tee and Sullivan goes for the more obvious but equally amusing facial and physical humour. A superb team.
Carley Stenson brings us Christine Colegate, the mystery woman who is a match for the two con artists. Stenson has a real stage presence and what a belter of a voice. When she sings the wonderful duet Love is My Legs with Freddy in Act 2 she radiates with such power and passion in her singing.
Geraldine Fitzgerald plays Muriel Eubanks, a class act from Surrey who travels around the world trying to find her place in life and looking for true love. From the start, one is drawn to Muriel, who seems almost to know she’s being scammed but yet she hangs around. Fitzgerald brings out Muriel’s vulnerability and gives us the impression of someone who is quite lost. It makes for a very believable and likeable character. In among that pathos, there is also humour. She uses the latter well to disguise a sometimes wobbly singing voice. However, her duet Like Zis/Like Zat, with Gary Wilmot as Andre Thibault, is brilliant and very droll. As a comedy pairing, they bring out the best in each other. Wilmot has developed the comic aspects of his rôle as Jameson’s P.A./sidekick and this adds greatly to the show. He maintains his oh- so-French accent consistently and has a definite twinkle in his eye throughout. A charming voice too.
As Jolene Oakes, an heiress from Oklahoma, Emma Caffrey lights up the stage with her sassiness and her energy, and a great voice. She is spot on with her dancing too. Mention must be made too of the ensemble cast who deliver the sharp choreography with style and energy.
Peter McKintosh has produced an atmospheric and very effective set. Paul Groothuis and Tom Marshall have ensured high-quality sound that means we can hear every word of the score as well as the excellent orchestra which is under the direction of Ben Van Tienen. Tienen is also involved in elements of the show and some of the gags. A nice touch.
Adapting the hilarious and classic 1988 movie was always going to be a big ask but Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek have created a dynamic piece, great songs, and some fabulous comedy moments. A sound and snappy book from Lane gives the actors the chance to shine and the audience plenty of side-splitting laughs. The show never takes itself too seriously and is at times self-aware and self-mocking, which really works.
A truly fun and funny evening of entertainment in a good old-fashioned way.
Photo: Alastair Muir | Runs until: 26 September 2015