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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Pulls a Heist of Hilarity at the Paramount

Also see David's review of Mitzi's Abortion

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
(Original Broadway Company)
Both times I have seen the crowd pleaser Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (once on Broadway and this week at the Paramount), I have come away thoroughly entertained. Now, whether that is due to the show itself or in great part to Norbert Leo Butz’s 2005 Tony Award winning comic gem of a performance is open to debate, but I will say that Seattle – the first stop on the show’s national tour – is very lucky to see this performer tear into the role of unkempt grifter Freddy Benson with just as much (if not more) theatrical panache as he displayed on Broadway. And worry not, the rest of the cast - cavorting on the somewhat scaled down but still eye-poppingly handsome David Rockwell sets, in the Technicolor splendor of Gregg Barnes’ saucy costumes – keep Butz very good company indeed.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is based on the Steve Martin/Michael Caine film comedy, which was based on the less successful earlier picture Bedtime Story with Marlon Brando and David Niven. Neither film is as well remembered as say The Producers, Hairspray or even Thoroughly Modern Millie (to name three other recent screen to stage adaptations), but Jeffrey Lane’s bubbly, laugh-laden script for the musical follows the film's basic outline as Freddy and his far more dapper and seasoned elder scoundrel Lawrence Jameson bilk the Riviera set for all they are worth, until the pretty face of presumed soap heiress Christine Colgate charms both men. The Full Monty composer/lyricist David Yazbek’s score, wonderfully orchestrated by Ted Sperling and the composer, has grown on me with each hearing. A new opening number, "The Only Game in Town," makes its debut in the tour, and on a first listen is really not as appealing as the number "Give Them What They Want" (which is still heard in the Broadway version), but other swell numbers abound, and the national tour company deliver them as admirably as they do their characterizations, under Jack O’Brien’s sassy direction.

Though certainly fine in the original Broadway cast of Wicked as Elphaba’s love interest Fiyero, Butz really found the role of his young life as Freddy. Choreographer Jerry Mitchell helps Butz stop the show early on with his goofy posturing in "Great Big Stuff," and then Butz goes that one better, teamed with Tom Hewitt’s debonair and dashing Lawrence Jameson in the gut-bustingly hilarious "All About Ruprecht" in which Hewitt’s faux prince successfully scares away a determined cowgirl amour by passing Freddy off as his "special needs" brother Ruprecht. Butz also has fine chemistry with the lovely and subtly comic Laura Marie Duncan (as Christine), first on the deceptively sincere "Nothing is To Wonderful to Be True" and then as they duet with abandon on the hilariously titled "Love Is My Legs." Individually, Hewitt makes something lovely and poignant of his late act two ballad "Love Sneaks In," and Duncan (whose character appears quite late in the game for a leading lady role) establishes herself with finesse on "Here I Am."

As Muriel, a droll yet daffy American conquest of Jameson’s, Hollis Resnik performs the Cy Colemanesque "What Was A Woman to Do?" with a lovely tone and a twinkle in her eye, qualities that mark her work throughout. Drew McVety seemed rather ill at ease as the "on the take" police inspector Andre, he won me over, teamed with Resnik on the cheeky "Like Zis, Like Zat." Jennifer Foote as Jolene, the Ruprecht fearing Southerner, gives a spirited, wide open spaces zest to her sole featured number "Oklahoma?" complete with a raffish troupe of Mitchell’s skilled dance ensemble, in what comes across a sort of hats off to Tommy Tune moment.

With only a few audiences under its belt, this finely tuned cast of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels deserves Seattle audiences as big as Sunday's was appreciative. In other words, good seats are still to be had, so if you want to see Butz in this role, or you just need a good pick me up, purchase (or con) your way to the Paramount before the show moves on this Saturday.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a Broadway Across America presentation at the Paramount Theatre, 9th & Pine in downtown Seattle, now through August 12. For more information online go to www.theparamount.com.


Photo: Carol Rosegg



- David-Edward Hughes



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