Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

This legendary film is now a spectacular stage musical.
Petra Shepherd reports.

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a musical comedy based on the legendary 1988 film starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin opened recently in London’s West End to huge acclaim. The show is set against the backdrop of the glamorous French Riviera where the decadent world of sophisticated conman Lawrence Jameson is set to come crashing down with the arrival of larger-than-life Freddy Benson – a conman of an entirely different order.  Soon realising the town’s not big enough for the both of them, the two find themselves going head to head in the con of their lives, pulling out all of the stops in a bid for the affections of millionaire soap heiress Christine Colgate.

Billed as the musical theatre event of 2014 and with other shows in the West End closing at an alarming rate The Full Monty, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Stephen Ward and with this week the news that the latest big production at The Palladium The X Factor Musical is to close early, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels gives the audience exactly what they want. Mischief and mayhem, frothy and funny and three delightful and talented leads.   Three time Olivier, Tony and BAFTA award winning Robert Lindsay making a long anticipated return to the musical theatre stage plays the roll of conman Lawrence Jameson with a permanent twinkle in his eye, raised eyebrows that Roger Moore would envy  and a bowler hat tipping routine I last saw him perfect in  Me and My Girl, what’s not to love. Comic genius Rufus Hound who wooed audiences in One Man Two Guvnors is equally adorable and totally hilarious, although at times pushs the boundaries of taste.  There’s an air of My Fair Lady about the show with the crass Freddy taking the Eliza Dolittle role being educated by the more suave and sophisticated Jameson as Henry Higgins.  Yes, it’s a little camp at times but it’s the great chemistry between Hound, as playful as his surname and Lindsay that’s hard to fault.

Fans of Downton and Doc Martin will not be disappointed as Samantha Bond  gives a winning performance (especially considering it’s her first musical) as Muriel Eubanks, a glamorous divorcee looking for love in the show’s fictional French Riviera resort Beaumont-sur-Mer whilst John Marquez, (Doc Martin’s hapless policeman) plays Andre Thibault, Beaumont-su-Mer’s Chief of Police. Who knew Downton’s Lady Rosmund could sing and dance so well. Credit is also due to the other two leading ladies Katherine Kingsley and Lizzy Connolly and their powerful voices, the latter with her big hair and mannerisms reminiscent of Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.  However, it’s Katherine Kingsley, all long legs, high kicks and attitude as the young impressionable heiress Christine Colgate that really steals the show.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels should win the hearts of Strictly fans, according to Baz Bamigoye in The Daily Mail ‘watching Robert Lindsay was like taking a master class from Fred Astaire’ whilst Rufus Hound triumphed on the recent Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special.   Jerry Mitchell who not only directed but also choreographed the show, won the Tony award for his choreography on the Tony Award winning Best Musical, Kinky Boots currently Broadway’s hottest ticket, so you know you’re on to a winner all round. The slick dance routines include everything from a raucous two stepping type hoe down to Latin, even disco.

The lyrics particularly are sharp and funny, although I was surprised at quite how vulgar and risky some of them were (one number rhymes “a life of taste and class, with culture and sophistication pouring out my ass” ).   There are others that I couldn’t possibly repeat, more in keeping with those found in The Book of Mormon but still highly entertaining, come prepared whilst the set evokes a rose tinted view of the French Riviera, all electric blue skys, palm trees and art Deco buildings but in looks and spirit very in keeping with the tone of the show.

The musical actually premièred on Broadway in 2005, so it’s a mystery that it’s taken so long to reach the West End.   Having just returned from New York, I’m hoping that the latest crop of hits Kinky Boots, Rocky – the Musical and Beautiful – the Carole King musical make their way across the pond and don’t take quite so long to do so.

Not all stage versions of favourite films work as demonstrated by the poor reviews given to Fatal Attraction currently also on in  the West End but this light-hearted musical caper really does and is more reminiscent of that other film to musical starring a couple of conmen, The Producers.   If its old fashioned razzle, dazzle and glorious escapism that you’re after, then Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is guaranteed to lift your spirits, I’m still laughing after one of the most hilarious and fun nights currently on offer in the West End, I’d grab a ticket fast.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Savoy Theatre
Savoy Court
Strand
London
WC2R 0ET

www.scoundrelswestend.com

Article (c)Petra Shepherd