Also see John's review of Hatchetman
Broadway Across America - Miami, in association with MGM On Stage / Darcie Denkert & Dean Stolber, presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Miami's new Carnival Center For The Performing Arts.
The musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is based on the 1988 film of the same title, which starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin, and was written by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro, and Paul Henning. The stage version features music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Jeffrey Lane. Yazbek is best known for his musical The Full Monty which earned him a Tony and a Grammy Nomination, and a Drama Desk Award for Best Score. Lane is known for his work writing for television, and is the winner of five Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards and one Golden Globe. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels received eleven Tony Award nominations in 2005.
The script of the musical follows closely that of the original film. The action opens on the French Riviera where a press release announces that a high-stakes con-artist, known as The Jackal, may be in the area. Enter Lawrence Jameson, a dashingly handsome man of impeccable taste and breeding. With the suavest of English accents, he makes his living charming wealthy women out of their money. He seduces recent divorcee Muriel Eubanks with his latest scam claiming to be a Prince in need of funds to support his army as they fight insurrection. While traveling by train, both she and Jameson separately bump into a second-rate swindler named Freddy Benson who uncovers Jameson's scam. If Jameson is the classiest of con-men, then Benson is the crassest. Benson blackmails Jameson not for money, but for training. He asks to be taught how to be more like Jameson. Jameson understandably balks until the Prince scam backfires with his latest mark, Jolene Oaks. It seems Oakes has mistaken his interest as matrimonial, and plans to lasso him back to Oklahoma. Benson poses as the Prince's half-witted royal brother to successfully drive her away.
When American heiress Christine Colgate arrives it becomes clear that the small French town is not big enough for both men to work their cons. They agree that the first to extract $50,000 from Colgate will be the winner, and the other must leave town. Along the way Jameson starts to lose his heart to Colgate as he perceives her to be "the truest person he's ever known." Revealing more of the story line would ruin the ending, but suffice to say that there are entertaining plot twists ahead.
The music for this show is distractingly eclectic. Yazbek has no consistent style, theme or use of orchestration. The songs sounds like they are randomly from different time periods, and some of the chosen styles may outdate those numbers over time unless orchestrations are changed. The song "Love Is My Legs" is so poorly written that only the most campy delivery makes it barely tolerable. Musically, the best part of the show is the tight jazz ensemble vocal harmonies in a few scenes. Yazbek's lyrics are also juvenile at times: "Tired of being a chump. Wanna be like Donald Trump, eating caviar in a hundred pound lump" actually made me wince.
An elegant set by David Rockwell moves gracefully throughout the show. Choreography by Jerry Mitchell is best in ensemble numbers featuring women with mile high legs. The staging of Benson's dancing is in need of modification unless the intent was to make him look utterly ridiculous. The live orchestra conducted by Stephen Bishop played the show well from start to finish..
Laura Marie Duncan is delightful as the heiress Colgate. Tom Hewitt is suitably suave and charming as Jameson. Timothy Gulan as Freddy Benson lacks some connection to the other actors on stage, as he seems to be in his own version of the show. Still, he manages to get the intended laughs built into the role, and has a good sense of physical comedy. Hollis Resnick is most enjoyable as Muriel, particularly with Drew McVety as Andre. McVety needs to calm down his French accent a tad, however, as he frequently cannot be understood when singing. Several of the actors are guilty of telegraphing where the laughs are at certain points in the show, and enjoy lengthy takes to the audience waiting for them. Despite the cast's extensive credits, it is the clever script that really carries the show in this production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels appeared from December 5th - December 10th, 2006 at the Carnival Center for The Performing Arts in Miami, FL. For information on the many diverse offering of the Carnival Center, you may contact them at 305-949-6072, or on line at www.carnivalcenter.org. For information on the Broadway Across America series you may go to www.broadwayacrossamerica.com.
All of the actors and stage managers in this production are members of the Actor's Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
*Indicates a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent national labor union.
+Indicates a member of the United Scenic Artists.