Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: 'Great Big Stuff' at the Walnut Street Theater
The Walnut Street opens its 201st season with the madcap Tony winning DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. Borrowing a song title from the show, Bernard Havard & Co. seems to have the knack of winning audiences with a "Give Them What They Want" motto. Opening on Broadway in 2005, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS garnered an amazing 11 Tony Award Nominations during its run, including Best Musical. While The Walnut's production is not flawless, it certainly delivers its share of great comedic moments of well delivered shtick and downright slap happy silly antics.
Much credit goes to the cast. Philly favorites abound in this mad cap adventure of shameless deception. Paul Schoeffler plays the debonair, conceited playboy Lawrence Jameson and the versatile Ben Dibble braves the ridiculous once more to entertain us with his rendition of Freddie Benson AKA Ruprecht. Joining this talented duo are the always delightful talents of Mary Martello and Fran Prisco playing Muriel (from Omaha) and police inspector, right hand crook Andre Thibault. Martello & Prisco simply take off together in characters that are naughty and sexy and they simply tickle the crowd.
Newcomer to the Walnut, Jessica Rush steps into the role of Christine Colgate, the soap heiress, who attracts the warped attention of the shameless womanizers who make her the prize for their zany contest of who will stay as numero uno playboy and who will leave the French Rivera. Rush delights in the role and surprises all with a stunning singing voice.
The book for DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS is written by Jeffrey Lane, based on the 1988 hit comedy of the same name starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. Lane's collaboration with the music and lyrics of David Yazbek (The Full Monty) creates a giddy mix of differing musical styles and jokes ranging from clever play on words to the ridiculous.
Song highlights are "Great Big Stuff" where both Dibble & the ensemble soar, Martello's "What Was a Woman To Do", and Dibble and Rush's "Love Is My Legs", which was nearly sabatoged however, by adding the ensemble.
The first few scenes struggle to find their way to laughter and languish a bit. Schoeffler's Jameson hints of Henry Higgins but later blossoms into a full palate of excellent accents. By the middle of Act one the comedy is in full swing with Dibble & Schoeffler. However, the "Oklahoma" song and scene is like a nightmare from Saturday Night Live as Maggie Anderson's Jolene is extreme and tasteless as is the entire ensemble number.
Set designs by Robert Andrew Kovach are not his best. The millionare Jameson's mansion is cartoonish and crass and the remaining sets and props are scanty and unmemorable. Richard Stafford's choreography lacks fluidity with an ensemble that is overused as they sing and dance their way through every other scene, making the show seEm Longer and busier than it needs to be.
This show's strength lies in the principle cast members who hit the nail on the head "Like Ziz. Like Zat" delivering 2 hours of belly laughs.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels plays at the Walnut Street Theater, 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA through October 25th. For tickets and information call 215.574.3550 or visit online www.walnutstreettheatre.org or ticketmaster.
Photo Credits: Mark Gavin