By Kay Kipling
Productions of the 2004 Broadway musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels haven’t turned up locally very often, but tuning into the Players’ current version is a reminder of what escapist, often very clever fun it is.
The stage show is based on the film of the same name, which starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin (and harks back to an even earlier film called Bedtime Story with none other than Marlon Brando). It features music by David Yazbek (The Full Monty), whose style, more rock-ish than the average Broadway score, suits the story and setting well and makes for lyrics you really want to listen to.
Briefly, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels introduces us to sophisticated longtime con man Lawrence Jameson (Tim Fitzgerald), who’s made quite a comfortable living out of fleecing rich women vacationing on the Riviera, with the help of his police chief friend, Andre (Ken Basque). No harm done there, apparently, since his victims are more than willing and it’s part of his plan to Give Them What They Want. But his routine is upset by the appearance on the scene of scruffy con-man-in-training Freddy Benson (Scott Vitale), who’s used to working his own scams at a much lower level.
Freddy may be competition, but he could also be a colleague, particularly when Lawrence needs to rid himself of an overeager cowgirl (Players newcomer Andrea Keddell) who thinks he’s going to marry her. The hilarious solution? Have Freddy play Lawrence’s chromosomally challenged brother, Rupprecht—the sort of drooling deviant any woman would run from.
One problem solved, but soon the larcenous pair faces another: the arrival of “soap queen” Christine Colgate (Amanda Heisey). It’s a case of “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us” as the two make a bet as to which one can take her for her money and force the other to vacate the premises.
It’s all great, lighter-than-air fun, smoothly staged by director-set designer Michael Newton-Brown and rendered lively by musical director Joyce Valentine and her orchestra, who make nice work of Yazbek’s diverting score. Fitzgerald may not be physically the perfect Lawrence, but he has a certain flair for this sort of thing, and he and Vitale play well together—equally so with Heisey as the third in their little triangle. Heisey occasionally hits a flat note in her vocals, but she’s come a long way in her stage poise and skills since her first appearance at the Players some months ago, and it’s always good to see that in a performer.
Keddell makes the twangy most of her big number, Oklahoma (no, not the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic; they’re rolling in their graves), and Basque and Cara Herman, as wealthy but lonely Muriel Eubanks, likewise are very entertaining, especially once they “find” each other as a romantic duo.
So go ahead, let yourself be taken in by these Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The show continues through March 30 (with a possible extension); for tickets call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.