Dirty Rotten Scoundrels | Fox Theatre

drs2Where Dirty Rotten Scoundrels succeeds is in its gags that rely more on the actors than the wordplay, as well as in its vocal performances.





St. Louis

On opening night, the touring cast for Broadway's adaptation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels handled the story of a few loveable con artists like a bunch of pros. Based on the 1988 Michael Caine and Steve Martin film of the same name, this breezy musical applies the music of David Yazbek and the book of Jeffrey Lane to basically exaggerate the appeal of its original context. While the script is sometimes smarmy, corny, and unnecessarily updated, the well-cast performances save the groan-inducing moments with their fair share of high notes.

Set in the French Riviera, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels follows the silky smooth Lawrence Jameson (played here by Tom Hewitt) as a professional con artist who portrays a down-on-his-luck prince in order to swindle rich ladies out of their money. After meeting the brash, uncouth Freddy Benson (D.B. Bonds) when the latter starts to horn in (emphasis on "horn") on his territory, the two make a bet over who can take a perky, aloof soap heiress for $50,000. All of the while, Jameson's overly-Frenchy sidekick, Andre Thibault (Drew McVety) is caught up in a deprived, romantic subplot with Muriel Eubanks (Hollis Resnik) as one of Jameson's ditzy, past-her-prime throwaways. What ensues is a comedy of obvious misdirection, with Jameson, Freddy, and the soap heiress, Christine Colgate, (Laura Marie Duncan) playing off of each other for leverage.

Where Dirty Rotten Scoundrels succeeds is in its gags that rely more on the actors than the wordplay, as well as in its vocal performances. As Christine, Duncan lights up the stage with deft charm and a natural glow in the more ambitious vocal moments. Hewitt is a fine mix of smug and subtle, counteracting Bonds' excessive mugging, although both prove to be fabulous singers when the challenges arise. As a duo, the two leads seem to have sufficient chemistry, and the bigger jokes go over well, yet both are somewhat unnatural and broad in their readings, perhaps overly aware of their predecessors. This is where the musical falters the most, in its self-awareness. The script repeatedly betrays the fourth wall, sometimes even physically, and efforts to add topical jokes (P. Diddy references just aren't funny) to an established comedic environment seem out of step and well, lame.

As Andre and Muriel, McVety and Resnik nearly steal the show. Muriel's disillusioned, Xanax-popping divorcee act is hilariously pulled off by the actress' vacant, ditzy stare, while McVety's bumbling and pitiful Andre is the perfect complement. The two's morning-after scene is probably the most memorable comedic moment of the entire musical.

Musically, the orchestra captures the setting very well, but the numbers are hit-and-miss. On "Great Big Stuff," Bonds does his part well, but the writing makes him seem a little more slapstick than is necessary. Duncan and Bonds shine, however, on the half-sentimental, "Nothing is Too Wonderful to be True," as their voices prove to harmonize very well. The peak, appropriately, is in the closing "Dirty Rotten Number," in which Hewitt and Bonds are both able to prove that there's good reason that they were chosen for this tour, with both displaying a physical exuberance that leaves you focusing on the more infectious aspects of the musical. On the whole, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is great as a light-hearted affair, and while some choices are questionable, you can leave the theatre smiling, without feeling dirty. | Dave Jasmon

At the Fox Theatre thru 4/8; on tour through 8/19.


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