(reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 13 October)
Recycling is generally considered to be a good thing. There are however moments when one feels that the musical theatre is just overloading the system. I’ve lost count of the number of musicals just over the past decade which have been based on films, let alone actual stage plays or indeed novels.
The latest to come my way is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, based on a 1988 film starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. The music and lyrics are by David Yazbek and the book by Jeffrey Lane; the original story – about conmen preying on rich women holidaying on the French Riveria – has been tweaked and updated. Yazbek’s lyrics have some clever line endings and allusions.
One of the conmen is a middle-aged smoothie Lawrence Jameson (Kevin Stephen-Jones at the performance I saw) who is well practised in his “art”. His first victim is Muriel Eubanks (Geraldine Fitzgerald), who drifts from Laurence to his factotum André Thibault (Gary Wilmot). Then along comes tyro Freddy Benson (Noel Sullivan), eager not just to learn the tricks of the trade from a master but to surpass him.
if Lawrence is happy to shake off Oklahoma heiress Jolene Oakes (Phoebe Coupe), all gun-toting and boot-stomping, both men fall for Christine Colgate (Carley Stenson). Stephen-Jones is most effective as the Viennese “doctor” Shüffhausen in one of Lawrence’s more desperate ploys to get the girl; otherwise he’s convincing enough without taking as much of the centre-stage as he should.
Sullivan somewhat over-eggs Freddy – you don’t feel that he deserves even a half-share in Christine. Stenson and Fitzgerald both come over well, though for me the most interesting and convincing performance was that of Wilmot. Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography are both fast-moving. Costumes are by Peter McKintosh, and some of those for the women principals and dance ensemble are very attractive. The ten-piece band is directed by Ben Van Tienen.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels runs at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 17 October. It also plays at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend between 10 and 14 November.