Review: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Musical adaptations of popular  films have become a fast moving trend in the theatre world with everything from Legally Blonde to the BodyGuard having a pop at their take on the Jukebox musical. When the next new kid on the block comes along promising the same thing it’s easy to become fearful, no one wants another Ghost.  However when I first encountered Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at it’s West End debut I was pleasantly surprised,  set along the back drop of 1950’s French Riviera with show stopping numbers in a variety of styles (a stage convention that can often fall flat on it’s face) certainly gave the audience ‘what they want’ – I wasn’t wowed but Robert Lindsey smoozed the crowd with his jazzy side steps and for a comp ticket on a Monday night I didn’t feel conned.

Naturally when I heard the musical was touring I didn’t expect much, my experience of touring musicals stems from sitting up in the gods in the early 90s, feeling slightly sick from too may Rowntrees fruit pastilles as I suffered through another touring rendition of Joseph and His Technicolour Dream Coat off my tits on Sunny Delight so I was far from optimistic. Based on the 1998 classic film with Michael Caine and Steve Martin the witty, fast paced script has the foundations of a good story and classic plot to rest on so realistically should have something to please even the most cynical of audiences i.e me… however I was most certainly dazzled. The killer cast brought a new kind of energy to the piece with fresh and relevant ad libbing as you got a real sense of them thoroughly enjoying themselves.

In a nutshell, the plot centres around two con men working the Riviera town of Beaumont-sur-mer , the dapper and sophisticated Lawrence Jameson with the scruffy round the sides new crook in town, Freddy Benson. The two make a bet to decide which of them should have the rights to the patch.  The wager in question involves  bedding the  the first available woman for $50,000,  which just so happens to be the squeaky clean soap queen Christine Colgate…

Michael Praed as the silver foxed conman Lawrence Jameson is every inch of swarve and playes up to his fruitful moments in the script without over spending them with the rest of the cast bouncing off each other in the right places for optimum effect. One of the key successes here from lifting off the West End is the casting, Noel Sullivan as the crass and crude Freddy Benson brings a youthful energy to the stage that it’s West End predecessor lacked. His solo ‘Great Big Stuff’ was a complete crowd pleaser, shattering his former squeaky clean popstar image with the reputation of an actor who can take a dirty rotter of a comedy part and truly make it his own. Credit here should also go to Mark Benson as Andre Thibault, a character that on my last viewing I felt got lost in the backdrop of everything. Fresh from his strictly session, Benson brings the toe tapping moves and moments with Geraldine Fitzgerald as Muriel Eubanks which not only rouse quite the giggle but break the fourth wall in the right kind of way. As for the leading lady? Well I’ll be honest here in that I’m always over harsh, mainly out of jealousy that I’m not the one on the stage strutting my stuff (poor Emma Watson could probably cure cancer and still be slightly loathed in the Jones household) but as much as I tried to find something to pull apart, there is nothing to dislike about the delightful Carley Stenson. Christine Colgate is a character who in parts is very easy to over doo with a squawky overly sunny demina,  not too long since her Legally Blonde days  it would be easy to see Stenson create another on stage Elle Woods, but this is far from it. Stenson lights ups the stage and hits the high notes in a way other actresses can only dream about. Move over Idina Menzel, there is a new new modern queen of musical theatre soon to take your crown.

In all it’s a good night out, not one to take the kids to but a good giggle of a gig that will leave you toe tapping in the isles. Running until May 16th the show sets sail to Manchester for it’s next stop of the nation wide tour so catch it while you can. Also if you’re feeling flash the Toffee interval Ice-cream is a total heartbreaker which combined with this dream team cast provides the perfect dirty rotter of a treat!

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