Adapting any film to a stage show, let alone a musical, is always going to be a bit of a risky venture as some people out there are always going to want to see that film literally transferred to the stage, and that of course is usually impossible. Writer Jeffrey Lane and composer David Yazbek have successfully walked that tight-rope with this stage musical adaption of the 1989 film “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin.
The original film about two con-men (at totally different ends of their chosen profession) mining the endless stream of wealthy (and not so wealthy) ladies along the Riviera coastline was always a perfect vehicle to adapt as it could be “played with” where needed without damage to the original source material.
Our two “grifters” tonight play their parts to perfection and with that very gentle comedy touch that is needed in these two roles. Michael Praed (playing Laurence Jameson) is the very polished high end “artist” and when required “exiled Prince raising money for his country’s cause” and Noel Sullivan (playing Freddy Benson) is the far cruder lower end worker of his art who accidentally discovers his soon-to-be mentor.
Also on great form is Gary Wilmot as Andre Thibault – local Chief of Police and accomplice of Laurence in all his adventures. Geraldine Fitzgerald is also just right for the role of Muriel Eubanks…duped by Laurence to aid his cause and finding unexpected love on the way.
Phoebe Coupe as Oklahoma oil family girl Jolene Oakes gets some great lines in this show, and a whole song and dance routine set around her character and really makes that space her own.
Carley Stenson as the “Sunshine Queen” Christine Colgate is however the person whom our two central characters revolve around as her “innocence and kindness” threaten to change the ways of our two con-artists forever. Like Michael and Noel, Carley also has that very light touch needed for comedy like this, and she plays that over the top “unbelievably too good to be true” girl perfectly.
This is of course a musical, and everyone here not only has the comedy talent but the vocal and dance talent to make this a great show. Add to that the fact that this is a very experienced cast with a huge variety of professional experience in many media over the years and you know that this is just going to be a quality performance and production. The opening dance routine was for me just a perfectly choreographed and timed slice of “pure dance musical nostalgia” and the routine with Michael and Gary just seemed to flow flawlessly.
Time-wise we are set in an unidentified period of time that could be anywhere from the 1930s to 1950s with grand hotel lobbies and Riviera setting and that setting, coupled with some great period style sets and costumes and a great chorus line, give much of this show that feel of a classic old Hollywood Musical, and director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell has done a fantastic job bringing all the talents required to do a show like this together.
There is a little twist to this story as the plot develops out in part two, and if you have not seen the film (a long time since I watched it), or have not seen this show then it is just unfair to tell you in this review (and I hope other reviewers do not let the plot twist out).
This is just a nice enjoyable night out at theatre to what is a great adaptation of a film that many seem to like more and more as the years go by. It is also a classic slice of musical theatre that genuinely captures that look and feel of the classic Hollywood Musical years.