Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

35296562_1934254336587468_7856954296443600896_oThe musical version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels first premiered on stage in 2004, an offshoot of the movie by the same name. The story revolves around two con artists. Lawrence Jameson lives a lavish lifestyle on the French Rivera, made possible by talking rich old ladies out of their jewels and money. He meets Freddy Benson, a new arrival, who makes his living swindling women with stories of his grandmothers failing health. The two men meet on a train. For some reason, the suave, debonair and experienced Lawrence takes the crass rookie Freddie under his wing. They soon realize the Rivera is not big enough for both of them. Since they are fond of fun and games and schemes, the dastardly duo decides to see who can dupe some damsel out of fifty-thousand dollars first.

Jeffery Lane’s book along with the music and lyrics by David Yazbeck created a musical that is mostly fluff. This is not a morally uplifting tale of love and romance with tunes destined to be show stopping chart toppers that you will go away humming. It is an excellent vehicle to showcase the talents of its leading and supporting actor. For this show to be entertaining the actors must have great comedic timing, be masters of physical comedy and possess good singing voices as well.  The cast of Stage 62’s production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels more than delivers.

Matthew J. Rush and Damon Spencer

Matthew J. Rush and Damon Spencer

Matthew J. Rush plays Lawrence in a hybrid style with a touch of David Niven, the smile of Cary Grant and a dash of James Bond. He’s smooth talking, well mannered, and handsome in a worldly way with an aura of sophistication and trustworthiness along with a smooth clear tenor voice.

The names Lawrence and Freddie convey a sense of opposites, and Damon Spencer’s Freddie is about as opposite of Lawrence as you can get. He’s crass, physical, unsophisticated and over-the-top nuts in the best tradition of Jack Black’s character portrayals.

Leon S. Zionts is Andre the local Chief Inspector who serves triple duty as Lawrence’s bodyguard and bag man. Zionts equips Andre with the world’s worst French accent. (This Stage 62 production is worth the ticket price just to see Zionts, the Producer of the acclaimed Front Porch Theatricals, singing and hoofing it on the boards!)

Cynthia Dougherty, Leon S. Zionts

Cynthia Dougherty, Leon S. Zionts

There is a string of women who fall under the charms of the two cons. Cynthia Dougherty plays Muriel Eubanks, a mature woman eager to fund a revolution, and perhaps find love along the way.  She and Andre have a funny and sweet morning-after moment in “Like Zis, Like Zat” in Act II. She is brilliant in her quest to land a man after her failed marriage. Her portrayal is consistently wonderful.

Candice Fisher’s Jolene Oakes is the funniest and most physical of the female characters with an alternate of “Oklahoma?” unlike anything you have ever heard before.

Stephanie Ottey is Christine Colgate, the heiress with the famous name that becomes the target of Lawrence’s and Freddie’s last con. Of all the characters, Colgate has the most depth and complexity and the highest audience sympathy which Ottey quite effectively  captures. Act II’s opening number, “Ruffhousin’ Mit Schuffhausen” with Lawrence, Freddie and Christine is quite a hoot.

Candice Fisher, Matthew J. Rush, Damon Spencer

Candice Fisher, Matthew J. Rush, Damon Spencer

The six main characters are surrounded by an ensemble cast of talented men and women that fill out the musical numbers vocally and in dance. All are clearly enjoying their characters.  T.J. Pieffer, who has been working with Stage 62 for some years, makes his directorial debut in this production. He helms the very experienced cast and large ensemble quite well. There might have been a few missed opportunities for some funny bits but all-in-all an excellent directorial debut.

Katlin Schreiner’s choreography is bright and snappy contributing to the overall fun and appeal. Costume Design by Sam Moyle is quite lush for such a large cast. The costumes perfectly reflect the characters’ personalities. Jay Weaver’s and Adam Butler’s sound design tries valiantly to overcome the acoustical problems with the hall and the use of body microphones. The room will continue to win that battle without attention to the acoustics of the space at an architectural level. Lastly and unfortunately, the lighting design by Garth Schafer left actors too often in total or semi-darkness violating a fundamental tenant of lighting design, that of visibility. Hopefully, this was just an opening night technical glitch.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a show just for the fun of it; cotton-candy for musical theatre fans. Stage 62’s cast brings out the inherent comedy in the piece, and the overall production showcases their considerable talent from both a vocal and comedic perspective. Scoundrels is definitely worth a visit to Carnegie and Stage 62 at the Library and Music Hall. You won’t have a rotten experience.

Remaining performances are at 8 pm on the 20th and 21st and again the 26th to 28th with Sunday matinees on July 22nd and 29th at 2 pm.

For tickets visit https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3499814

Photos courtesy of Image 42

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