Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is based on the non-musical 1988 movie of the same name, which in turn was based on the 1964 movie Bedtime Story. It's about a couple of con men working the same town on the French Riviera, and an American "soap queen" they're both trying to bilk. You'll enjoy the show more if you don't know the details of the plot. The music and lyrics are by David Yazbek and, as in many recent musicals, the lyrics outshine the music. Still, the songs "Nothing is Too Wonderful to be True" and "Love Sneaks In" deserve to have a life outside of this show.
Devon Frieder Productions is one of Albuquerque theater's little-known treasures, which is a shame because it should be known by everyone who likes musicals. Devon puts on only one show a year, in a rented space. I don't know how she manages financially, but I'm awfully glad she hasn't given up. Every year, she gets some of the area's finest young performers to work with her. One of the great pleasures of going to live theater is encountering talented young kids with all the world ahead of them, and there are several here that fill the bill.
The two male leads are new to me, and wonderful. Jamie H. Jung is too young for the role he's playing, but no matter. He's got a good British accent (not to mention German and Spanish) and is totally charming as the debonair swindler who turns out to have a heart after all. Rodrigo M. Zaragoza is amazinga natural comedian, both facially and physically, and he can sing too. His performance is not to be missedcatch him now so you can say you saw him when.
Considering that Devon Frieder, who plays the female lead, also produced, directed, and choreographed, you would expect a Streisand-sized ego to take over the show. But Devon is a generous performer. She fits in perfectly with the rest of the players, and is a delightful actress and singer. Paul Hunton plays it very French (almost too much so, because at first his accent was so strong I couldn't catch all the words) and very funny. Amy Leigh Bingen is delightful as the world-travelling American woman who wants to settle down, preferably with this Frenchman.
The other nine or ten cast members are unfailingly energetic, and everybody seems to be having a great time on stage. Speaking of the stage, there is really no set, just some furniture moved on and off, but that's all you really need when you have actors who are this good. The costumes, by Devon Frieder (of course) and Rebecca Lillie Dawson, are excellent. You wouldn't think that in a show set on the Riviera you would need costumes for a dance number about Oklahoma, but this show is full of surprises.
You might expect that a Devon Frieder production would be one of those "let's get the gang together and put on a show" shows, as in movies from the '30s, but there's nothing amateurish about these shows. They are professional in every aspect except production values, which they can't afford, and that makes them all the more enjoyable.
The theater only seats about 50, and it's a short run, so I encourage you, if you are a fan of musicals, to get one of those seats before they're gone. Every seat deserves to be filled. If we're lucky, Devon will be back next year with another gem.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a musical with book by Jeffrey Lane and music and lyrics by David Yazbek, directed by Devon Frieder, is being performed at the Musical Theatre Southwest Center for Theatre. 6320 Domingo Rd NE in Albuquerque (just east of San Pedro, between Central and Copper). Through January 25, 2015. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:00. Sunday at 4:00. $18 adults, $15 students. Info at 505-216-6014 or www.facebook.com/DevonFriederProductions.