Fun, glorious, fun

DRS cast

Phoebe Coupe as Jolene, Geraldine Fitzgerald as Muriel, Noel Sullivan as Freddy, Michael Praed as Lawrence, Carley Stenton as Christine and Mark Benton as Andre

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - The musical

The New Alexandra theatre

*****

THIS is a show that goes way beyond feel good, it has a feel, bloody marvellous factor. It is quite simply fun, glorious fun from its opening bars to its closing standing ovation.

Based on the 1988 film starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine – and a lot of people do know that – it is slick, glamorous, fast paced, witty, smutty with style and packed with laughs.

There isn’t a weak character or indeed performance as we enter the world of the Riviera con man, suave, sophisticated, handsome, debonair etc, etc - you get the picture - Lawrence Jameson, played with some wonderful humorous asides and touches by Michael Praed showing a marvellous bent for comedy.

In his pocket, and helping fill them, is Andre Thibault, thmuriel and andreae chief of police and chief accomplice in Lawrence’s heart rending sob stories designed to relieve the rich and attractive ladies of at least some of their wealth. As Lawrence explains, it is a matter of Give Them What They Want.

It is a splendid comic performance from Mark Benton, French accent and all, who shows some neat footwork – he reached week 10 in Strictly remember –  wonderful timing and a fine voice. And who can resist a show that has Mark Benton twerking!

Muriel and Andre, true love blossoming among the lies and deception

Into their urbane world of wealth comes the upstart New Yorker, hustler Freddy Benson, little more than a two bit swindler, scraping by on a few dollars conned here and there. It is a wonderfully entertaining performance from Noel Sullivan, who is in fine voice and full of fun.

Freddy and Lawrence form a bond, of sorts, a €50,000 bond actually, which involves The Soap Queen of America, Christine Colgate, the target of their rivalry for both cash and, it turns out, affections.

Carley Stenson is carving out a career for herself in musical theatre, after her decade as Steph Cunningham in Hollyoaks and this performance as the sweet innocent Christine can only enhance her growing reputation. She has the looks, the voice and can act and dance, and you can’t ask for more.

While Lawrence and Freddy battle over Christine an unlikely romance is blossoming between Andre and one of Lawrence’s early marks, Muriel Eubanks who find love is Like Zis/Like Zat.

She is wealthy, from Surrey and with a pathologic need to volunteer and do good, and elicits a fine performance from Geraldine Fitzgerald, who perhaps explains the dilemma of all Lawrence’s victims in the bittersweet What was a woman to do.

As a diversion from Lawrence’s smooth progress through life by seduction and deception Phoebe Coupe provides a touch of scene stealing as oil heiress Jolene Oakes, six-gun toting and with two former husbands, the last two of many we suspect, who have “not yet been legally declared dead”. Her Oklahoma? is a long way from Rodgers and Hammerstein but it is great fun.

Amid the constant deceptions we drift into slapstick to meet Austrian therapist Dr. Shuffhausen, a wheelchair bound Sergeant with a dance related psychosis preventing him walking in a wonderfully funny storyline.

Perhaps lawrence, Freddy and Christinedaftest of all we are introduced to Lawrence’s brother Ruprecht, kept in a cellar and not so much a sandwich short but a whole hamper short of the proverbial picnic. All About Ruprecht is the funniest number in the show.

Dr. Shuffhausen, who bears a remarkable similarity to Lawrence, a paralyzed Sergeant who resembles Freddy and the gullible Christine

Not that there are not the odd serious moments, such as Lawrence’s Love Sneaks In as he finds himself falling for Christine and, against all his principles, doing the decent thing.

There is good support from a strong ensemble and some stylish choreography, including a line dance, from director Jerry Mitchell.

With a book by Jeffrey Lane and music and lyrics by David Yazbek there is a strong, laugh a minute, storyline, a happy ending, unless you are a Greek millionaire, and good music which lay the foundations for a solid show.

Which brings us to the other stars, the excellent 10 piece band under musical director Ben Van Tienen. What a difference it makes to put some numbers in the pit to give a big full sound.

A mention too for a glorious, inventive and elegant set from Peter McKintosh, with Art Deco scenes silently gliding in and out, up and down without a break and it was all beautifully lit by Howard Harrison.

It was a feather in the cap for the Alex to be chosen to launch this touring production and, even though Press night was only the second performance, it is a show that has already built a nice, natural rhythm, so catch it while you can. To 16-05-15

Roger Clarke

06-05-15 

Contents page Alex Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre