Book: Jeffrey Lane
Music and Lyrics: David Yazbek
Director and Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell
Reviewer: Jess Rowe
“It was a ball! It was a blast!”
Smashing it directly from London’s West End, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels cons Cardiff into stitches after its opening night in the city. Based on the 80s movie starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, the show is situated on the French Riviera, following a suave and experienced con artist Lawrence (Michael Praed) whose regular spot in Beaumont sur Mer is ambushed by a young, brash American, Freddy Benson (Noel Sullivan). The contrasting pair set out an agreement that whoever can con the “Soap Queen”, Christine Colgate (Phoebe Coupe), out of €50,000 gets to stay in town whilethe loser must leave. Seems straightforward, right?
Featuring music by David Yazbek, there is no surprise that the show goes to extremes to make the audience roll in the aisles. From a parody of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! to a pop power ballad (Love Is My Legs), Yazbek soars across the genres of musical theatre, accompanied by a full-blown orchestra – uncommon to the touring scene – and led strongly by Ben van Tienen. This sophistication is juxtaposed with the humour of Yazbek’s crude lyrics, which allows him to cleverly mirror the diversity between the two con men through the score.
The true culprits – for making the most of the slick direction and choreography from Kinky Boots’ Jerry Mitchell – are the cast. With a few surprise cameo rôles within the ensemble and an exciting and energetic vibe in their movements, this show never fails to stay alive nor loses the captivation of its audience.
Mark Benton takes on the rôle of Lawrence’s French wing man, André, with charisma and wit. Nicely fitting alongside Geraldine Fitzgerald’s rôle of Muriel with the song Like Zis/Like Zat they form a sweet little subplot. Phoebe Coupe, although understudying the rôle of Christine, shows off powerful vocals and the naivety and hopelessness of her character with great confidence. However, it goes without saying that the true dream team is Praed and Sullivan, who you can tell are going to be trouble as soon as you hear the name “Ruprecht”. The two make famous moments of the film even more memorable on stage and their chemistry is more lovable than any of the romances in the show – a form of chalk and cheese at its finest!
Sullivan’s Freddy is the highlight of the show. Even though he may be known for his talented singing voice, which is shown off in the best of fashions through the score, he stands out as an actor as well. With a true musical theatre presence, huge animation in his face at any given moment and a way of bringing out all the comedy in his character, it is not hard to see he is rocking his hometown. Sullivan clearly has a raw passion shown through the amount of effort he puts into his performance, and after sweating for two and a half hours on stage, he is more than committed to selling his personal album in the foyer – where getting a photo with him in his typical tourist costume is more than acceptable.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is classically naughty, extraordinarily individual, the biggest and funniest musical on tour at the moment. Is it amazing? Yes. Will I be going again? Yes. Should you buy a ticket? Great. Big. YES.
Runs until Saturday, 22 August 2015 as part of a tour.