Theatre Mirror Review>"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"

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entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Renaissance City Theatre Company, the producing entity at the Granite Theatre's current show is "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels", a  Broadway musical written by Jeffery Lane with music and lyrics by David Yazbek. This musical version is based on the 1988 movie comedy that starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin. The Broadway show opened on March 3, 2005 and ran until September 3, 2006. The show centers on a handsome, suave, debonair conman named Lawrence Jameson who is elegantly wooing and cleverly swindling rich women on the French Riviera. He has much success and is at the top of his game collaborating with Andre Thibault, the French police chief. Then one day, he meets Freddy Benson, an aspiring conman, a small town boorish grifter who wants to learn at the master's feet. Freddy swindles women by waking their compassion with fabricated stories about his ailing grandmother's failing health. They clash, eventually collaborate and finally decide on a bet on what they consider the ultimate con with the loser leaving town. They decide to swindle newly arrived American heiress, Christine Colgate out of $50,000. All their shenanigans play out with a lot of fun involved and also some romance. Three women figure prominently in the show. Muriel of Omaha, a woman with some cash who is hoping to find some romance. Jolene from Oklahoma who is proud of it and intends to rope herself a man and take him home. The third one is Christine, the American Soap Queen who is a little bit naive and clumsy with a heart bigger than her brain.The show has a fun twist at the end that will keep audiences laughing, humming and guessing to the end of the show. David Jepson directs this stylish, intelligent, rollickingly fun new musical with his talented cast while musical director Stephen DeCesare and choreographer Lisa Clough supply the music and dance steps for them.

The songs extend and advance the plot so you must pay close attention to the lyrics to figure out what's happening. David gives his cast many bits of shtick to perform especially when Freddy is cured by the phony doctor. He also pays close attention to the different exotic accents needed by his cast ranging from French, German, British and Southern. David helms this contemporary musical with a deft hand, making the crazy characters come to life but in a tongue in cheek style to make them likable to the audience. David Yazbek's lyrics are reminiscent of Cole Porter's clever lyrics of the past. Stephen not only makes his performers shine but leads a three piece combo while playing lead keyboards. The overture sounds like the Pink Panther theme. Lisa's dances include include ballroom, Fred and Ginger type, soft shoe, a tango, a mambo and a country western dance. The Riviera set is by David and the beautiful costumes are by his lovely wife, Beth and Paula Brouilette.

The two leading men in this show are fabulous with their singing, dancing and acting. Marcus J. Fisk is excellent as Lawrence, who acts urbane and debonair a la James Bond. The character is also reminiscent of Henry Higgins as he tries to transform Freddy into a high class conman like him as he and his butler try to dress Freddy a la Eliza Doolittle but in a suit. Not wanting to give away too many specific details of the show, I'll describe the musical numbers. "Give Them What They Want" is a patter song while disguised as a foreign prince, tells the audience the woman want to be swindled by him. Other scams include disguising himself as a dentist, a British naval officer, a psychiatrist. "All About Ruprecht" is where Lawrence describes his brother's mental condition while keeping him locked in the basement with comic lines like hiding farts in a jar. He insults George W. Bush in this number while ridding himself of Jolene. "Ruffhousin' mit Shauffhausen" is where Lawrence pretends to be a doctor to cure Freddy's paralysis. It sounds like "Simple Little System" from "Bells Are Ringing" and Lawrence tickles his foot then whips him with a stem of a flower. He, Ryan and Maria as Christine yodel this song with Ryan covering his pain with the yodel. Lawrence's other con during "The More We Dance" because Freddy told Christine he is paralyzed with Dance Fever after catching his girlfriend with another man. Marcus and Maria do an excellent samba with the chorus in this song. His final song is "Love Sneaks In" which is a gorgeous ballad where Lawrence falls hook, line and sinker for Christine.

Ryan Sekac as Freddy is fantastic and the character is low down and crass con artist, the complete opposite of Lawrence. He is reminiscent of an athletic Nathan Lane. Freddy cons woman with a sob story about his sick grandmother. His facial expressions are priceless. One of his funniest bits is in the wheelchair when he zooms around the stage like Sheridan Whiteside from "Man Who Came to Dinner" and lies exhausted after so much exertion after crawling up the stairs. His incredible voice is heard in "Great Big Stuff"  where he wishes for all the good things in life as the chorus dances what his desires are. Ryan's beautiful ballad is "Love Is My Legs" when she helps him regain the power to walk. It sounds like a 1960's rock song and his "Son Of Big Stuff" is when Freddy thinks he's finally won the bet and wants to win Christine's heart by seducing her in "Nothing Is Too Wonderful for Words", a pretty ballad. "The Reckoning" is where Freddy tells Lawrence what really happened and "Dirty Rotten Number" is where they get what's coming to them. They become duped instead of duping. The show ends with both men in white suits, sitting in lawn chairs wondering what to do when tourists from Greece show up.

Maria Tavarozzi, a pretty brunette plays Christine, the American soap heiress who is the dim bulb in the show. She has a strong soprano voice as she enters the stage with her luggage and the chorus in "Here I Am" which sounds like "Friendship" by Cole Porter. The gorgeous ballad with Freddy is "Nothing Is Too Wonderful" when Christine expresses her desire to help him out of the goodness of her heart. She begins the song with lovely words but when he joins in, he makes up rhyming words. Andre is excellently played by Ethan Marble who has a fantastic French accent as this shady police inspector.  Ethan's song is "Chimp in a Suit" where he makes fun of Freddy as being too low class for Lawrence to take him on as a pupil calling him minkey in it. his interactions with Lawrence and the other cast members is terrific.

One of the first women we meet is Muriel Eubanks of Omaha, a tourist in France who falls for Lawrence's fake prince routine, giving him all her jewelry. Courtney Littlefield plays Muriel who laments her fate with the other women duped by Lawrence in "What Was a Woman to Do?". After meeting Andre several times, he decides that he likes her singing the duet "Like Dis, Like Dat" where they have risque lines about their drunken night together with lines like "Our legs were wrapped around each other''. Last but not least is the biggest scene stealer in the show, Diana Blanda as the very wealthy, Jolene who decides to marry Lawrence. She belts out "Oklahoma?" as Jolene while squealing and kicking up her heels with the chorus in a country western show stopping dance. Diana reminds you of a foul mouth Ado Annie from "Oklahoma" but this ain't your Rodgers and Hammerstein song because Yazbek gives her the comic lyric of "I'm gonna shoot those suckers" and she also steals the scene with Marcus during the "Ruprecht" number with wild and crazy antics. Be sure to catch "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" by the Renaissance City Theatre Company at the Granite Theatre. Be sure you catch it before the con ends in Westerly.

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (9 October - 15 November)
@ 1 Granite Street, WESTERLY RI

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