Book: Jeffrey Lane
Music &Lyrics:David Yazbek
Director &Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell
Reviewer: Rob Atkinson
After a successful West End run, this highly enjoyable musical is now entertaining audiences around the country with a vivid mixture of comedy, musical excellence and brilliant choreography as an unlikely and convoluted tale unfolds of two chalk-and-cheese villains operating on the Côte d’Azur of yesteryear. That quintessential Riviera touch is provided by the highly effective set and costumes designed by Peter McKintosh, who has provided the ideal setting for director Jerry Mitchell to work his magic with a consummate cast and ensemble.
The plot revolves around the efforts of two extremely dissimilar conmen, the self-adoring Lawrence Jameson (Michael Praed) and the cheerily vulgar Freddy Benson (Noel Sullivan), to swindle $50,000 out of American heiress Christine Colgate (Carley Stenson). This proposed sting has the added spice of setting one bad lad against the other, as the nefarious pair compete to see who can be the first to relieve the poor girl of her cash. To the winner will go an exclusive licence to operate in an area of rich pickings; the loser will have to leave town. Helping here and hindering there is the comical figure of Andre Thibault (Mark Benton), who is a blundering sidekick to the urbane Lawrence. Benton steals a couple of scenes with his immaculate comic timing and gift for hilarious facial and vocal expression. Praed holds his end up well in his onstage relationship with Sullivan’s outrageous and hilariously crude portrayal of Freddy; the chemistry between the two main actors is evident throughout, never more so than during the tastelessly funny ‘All About Ruprecht’.
It is that spectacular character of Freddy Benson who really takes the honours, no mean feat in such an accomplished cast. Noel Sullivan thoroughly deserves the accolade, for a performance that milks the part of every last drop of humour – it’s a real tour de force of energy and timing. Carley Stenson operates between the two main protagonists with style, assurance and a terrific singing voice. Her duet with Sullivan, ‘Love Is My Legs’, provides one of many notable highlights. Mark Benton’s dalliance with Muriel Eubanks (Geraldine Fitzgerald) provides some additional impetus after the interval; the song and dance routine between Andre and Muriel is a masterpiece of comic tenderness amid the grafting and swindling going on all around them.
Any show will, ultimately, only be as good as its ensemble – and in this, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is particularly well-served. The big dance numbers are carried off with verve and panache, whirling and high-kicking against a background of David Yazbeck’s memorable score. And from these exalted ranks emerge a couple of notable cameo performances; Jolene Oakes (Phoebe Coupe) is an Oklahoma gal with a penchant for gunplay, who has her cap set for Lawrence and has to be dissuaded with the manic assistance of Freddy – their first collaboration. Miss Coupe extracts the full potential of what is a small but telling part and hers is a vivid performance of energy and rip-roaring humour. An even smaller contribution, and yet equally telling, is provided by Emma Caffrey with her singing usherette – much to the surprise and delight of the audience.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels tackles the immensely difficult task of transferring a successful comedy movie to the musical stage, and carries it off with sublime acting, singing and dancing to provide a memorable spectacle that will delight the most demanding of theatre-goers. A fantastic evening’s entertainment and definitelyworth catching at some point on its UK tour.
Runs until: Saturday 4th July 2015