Where does one start when reviewing such an outstanding show?
Growing up watching the 80’s classic film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, starring Steve Martin and Sir Michael Caine, I had high expectations for the musical. If you haven’t seen the film, then put it on your ‘to do’ list.
As always, before going to the theatre to review a show, I like to ask myself a question. And this time it was, “Would the musical be able to outdo the film?” as screen to stage adaptations are a tough challenge!
In 2005 the production ran in Broadway for 3 years, yet this was the first time it was to hit the UK and I was lucky enough to spend an evening watching the scoundrels at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre before it heads off to the bright lights of the West End.
Playing Lawrence Jamieson (Sir Michael Caine) is three-time Olivier and Tony Award winner Robert Lindsay, who returns to the stage after 16 years, famous for Me And My Girl, Oliver and of course the BBC TV comedy My Family. I’m going to sneak in here that I got to meet him before the show, and rather than asking him “Why did you return to the stage after 16 years?” or “Can you give me three words to describe the show?” all I actually came out with was “I always wanted you to be my dad!” Clearly, I was completely star struck!
Alongside him playing Freddy Benson and in my opinion with massive Steve Martin shoes to fill was comedy genius Rufus Hound, star of One Man, and Two Guvnors.
The plot is that of the film, set in the French Riviera where Lawrence Jamieson (Robert Lindsay) and Freddy Benson (Rufus Hound) are two con men who charm, cheat and con their way through rich women; attempting to settle their rivalry by betting on who can swindle a young American heiress Christine Colgate (Katherine Kingsley) out of $50.000 first.
Obviously, I was relying on Robert Lindsey to give a incredible performance and steal the show and my heart, which he does. From the first scene where he says “mmmmm,” in only the way he can, it brought back memories of him in My family, as he whisks us off into the world of theatre, but he wasn’t alone. Rufas Hound might have been a little rough around the edges, but he was meant to be, being naturally comical, with perfect facial expressions in all the right places. I would like to know if he had an influence in writing some of the one liners?
Oliver award nominee Katherine Kingsley and Samantha Bond also brought the stage to life, giving fabulous performances with a perfect balance of comedy and emotion. I especially warmed to Samantha Bond known from Downton Abbey. As she and John Marquez took you on a love affair. I mean who doesn’t like a little romance, even if it’s a little rude and naughty at times? There were some fantastic moments where I hid my face in my hands as I kept laughing to the point where my cheeks hurt.
The show is hilariously entertaining, engaging you from beginning to end, with its catchy music and lyrics written by David Yazbek (although I don’t think I will be humming them all week), the endless dance numbers, comedy and romantic themes. Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography gives the show a modern freshness to theatre, as well as a scoundrel’s style, grace and elegance. The costumes were dazzling, the 1930’s set was up to date, the lighting was effective and the orchestra was superb, giving a perfect balance.
So, “Does the musical out do the film?” I don’t know, they are both equally brilliant. All I know is, if you want a theatre experience that ticks all the boxes, then grab or con your way to some tickets to watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels when it arrives at the Savoy Theatre in London from March. For those of you lucky enough to have already got your tickets for the sold out performances in Aylesbury, then enjoy your night as you’re transported back to the French Riviera with the scoundrels.