mon 22/07/2024

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre

Film-to-stage musical will leave no one feeling conned

Robert Lindsay and companyJohan Persson

The “fantasy” Riviera conjured by designer Peter McKintosh for the West End premiere of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - the Musical is pretty much an extension of the Savoy Theatre’s shining Art Deco auditorium, its sleek angular segments gliding into position like they too have been choreographed by director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell. So it looks devilishly good and it smells of money and deception.

Which (as those of you have seen the semi-classic movie will know) is precisely what this expensively upholstered romp is all about. We’re not talking great art here but I doubt either that anyone will be leaving the theatre feeling,

We, of course, get two conmen for the price of one in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - the terminally suave Lawrence Jameson (Robert Lindsay) and the rampantly chaotic Freddy Benson (Rufus Hound) - and in a slickly storyboarded sequence of capers, a cavalcade of bluffs and counter-bluffs, book writer Jeffrey Lane and the music and lyrics of David Yazbek give them ample opportunity to exhaust their talents in pursuit of a satisfactory payday. Musicals stand or fall on the quality of their books and the placing and pacing of their musical numbers and in marked contrast to the recent car-crash that was I Can’t Sing! the shaping and super-clean storytelling of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels makes it, for better and worse, all of a piece.

As a score it’s not up there with Yazbek’s The Full Monty (which might have been a better bet for revival than the recent dramatisation) - that was terrifically good and there’s nothing here remotely on that level, musically speaking, though most of the numbers serve and do the business effectively enough. But Yazbek’s lyrics are sharp and smart and best of all they chime seamlessly with Lane’s book so there’s never a feeling of “disconnect” between the two.

The nub of the show is an all-singing, all-dancing, all-sparring double act of one-upmanship between its two stars - the smooth, superannuated Jameson whose sidekick Andre Thibault (John Marquez with a ready line of Clouseau vowels) just happens to be Chief of Police, and his wannabe apprentice, the scruffy, uncouth, down-at-heel Benson whose idea of a chat-up line is “Are you going to finish that olive?” The dialogue is rife with zippy exchanges - “Her family are in oil” - “Crude?” - “Well, she’s a little pushy" - but mostly it’s the way they tell them that gives the show its lift.

Robert Lindsay is not surprisingly in his element playing the audience as surely as he plays the part. The song-and-dance man that won him such plaudits on both sides of the pond in Me and My Girl has lost none of its charm - though the voice can no longer carry a ballad, even one as bad as “Love Sneaks In” - and the comic timing is as effortless and instinctive as it ever was. Rufus Hound (pictured above)  - in Freddy’s various incarnations (which it would be churlish to reveal) - disports his manic slapstick energy in spades and all that’s missing is a real singing voice to nail his big Rap and Soul number “Great Big Stuff”. That said, he does a pretty good job at impersonating a singer and in the cheesy parody number like “Love is My Legs” he’s crooning for Nashville. The running visual gags are fun, too - the rolling hat gag for Lindsay and the catching the tossed olive gag for Hound.

As for the trio of female “marks” they are far from ciphers with Samantha Bond charmingly scatty as the gullible Muriel Eubanks who’s panting to get laid and a fabulously loud Lizzy Connolly as the Texan oil heiress leading off a vulgar spoof on “Oklahoma?” where the substitution of a question mark for the exclamation mark makes it worth buying a programme.

Then there’s Katherine Kingsley as Catherine Colgate who is simply terrific in the kind of leading lady comedy role they tend not to write any more. She is the “romantic interest” with a twist and only a cad would reveal what that is. It remains to be seen if the punters think that something as slight but as slick as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is worth the price of a West End ticket to find out. But one thing is sure -if ever a show needed an audience to play off this is it.

Katherine Kingsley as Catherine Colgate is simply terrific in the kind of leading lady comedy role they tend not to write any more


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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