Book: Jeffrey Lane
Music &Lyrics: David Yazbek
Musical Director: Ben Van Tienen
Director/Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
A musical adaptation of the 1988 film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels brings comedy, catchy tunes and the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera to the New Wimbledon Theatre. Updated for a UK audience, Jerry Mitchell’s production has a classic, timeless quality. Marrying an old-style musical feel with up-to-the-minute jokes (including ones specific to the audience), this is a great night out that few will want to miss.
Starring silver-fox Michael Praed as charming and self-obsessed conman Lawrence Jameson, the production opens with a skilful spot of exposition. Introducing both sidekick/chief of police Andre Thibault (Gary Wilmot) and the many women Jameson has seduced for their silverware, Praed performs Give Them What They Want with the energetic ensemble; setting the tone with the upbeat, cleverly choreographed number. Jameson’s latest ‘mark’, Muriel Eubanks (Geraldine Fitzgerald), believes he is a cash-strapped Prince trying to fund a revolution and doesn’t hesitate to donate to his cause. What unfolds over the next 2½hours is a witty romp, full of slapstick, surprises, and a soupçon of sensitivity.
Unfortunately for Jameson, his plans are forever changed when Freddie Benson (Noel Sullivan), a brash pretender to the throne, arrives at Beaumont-Sur-Mer. The men initially join forces, culminating in one of the funniest showstoppers of the night: All About Ruprecht. The lyrics are inspired, the choreography remarkable, and the number expertly executed by Praed, Sullivan and Phoebe Coupe. As competitive as they are self-assured, the two men then place a bet to con the next rich woman they meet – enter soap queen Christine Colgate (Carley Stenson).
Stenson is a breath of fresh air in what would otherwise be a very testosterone-filled production. A classic ingénue, albeit a klutzy one, there is far more to Christine – and Stetson – that initially meets the eye. Stenson and Sullivan both showcase their spectacular voices and comedic abilities throughout, with their side-splitting duet Love is my Legsparticularly memorable. Likewise, the Germanic S&M song Rüffhousin’ Mit Shüffhausen is utterly hysterical, with Jameson strutting and smirking while Freddy suffers and Christine coos.
Special mention should be made of Fitzgerald and Wilmot’s performancesand the relationship between their characters. A sub-storyline added for the musical, there are really heartfelt moments between Muriel and Andre, and both actors wring every laugh and sigh from their (occasionally shocking) interactions.
Touring such a complex production can be challenging on a first night in a new venue, so one can forgive the odd technical glitch or vocal twitch as it settles. The audience certainly had no complaints, with most on their feet at the final curtain.
Runs until 24October 2015 and continues to tour| Image:Alastair Muir