BEHIND THE SCENES: On Stage With DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS
Tony Cross joined the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels digital media night - where guests were invited to dance, watch the show, and then quiz the stars. What did he make of it?
The evening started with some free food and drinks for the blogging community and a do a bit of dancing on stage stuff. It was rather nice and fun but being a cynical old salesman I'm afraid it triggered all my cynicism. In fact, I went into the show wrapped in a coating of cynicism so bright I'm surprised it didn't show up like the glow that surrounds the child eating Ready Brek.
That cynicism didn't last long. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is very funny.
I'm not sure it is as musically strong or as memorable as it could be but it is good enough to keep you entertained, performed with energy and panache by a cast that seems to be enjoying themselves intensely and extremely funny.
I won't bore you too much with the background. This is a musical based on a film starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. It has taken about a decade to make its way to London. It certainly feels like a Broadway musical but it also manages to subvert the clichés of that form, especially the brilliantly performed cheese fest that is 'Love is My Legs'. Sung by Rufus Hound as Freddy Benson and Katherine Kingsley as Christina Colgate it is the highlight of the show for me.
It is also Rufus Hound's own favourite moment in the show. Talking to him afterwards he explained that this was the bit he was most worried about singing, being a bit unsure of his own abilities, but once he decided to go for it he feels that when it works it's his best bit of the show.
Hound is excellent throughout: packed with energy, a good American accent and a decent voice. He also works well with Robert Lindsay as Lawrence Jameson. They manage to be funny as hell when working together and when at war with each other, the 'All About Ruprecht' moment being particularly amusing.
Lindsay conveys an effortless - which it obviously isn't - coolness as Lawrence in all his various guises. The two of them also manage to cope rather well with those moments that happen in a live show where - for example - one of you is supposed to catch an olive thrown high into the air in your mouth. It's not going to work every night. I'm sure Hound managed to get Lindsay to corpse (briefly) a couple of times. I suspect Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the sort of show you could see again and it wouldn't be a pristine corporate copy of the last time you saw it, which is something I like, along with the moments the show breaks the fourth wall.
Katherine Kingsley is also great: fantastic singing, bursting with energy and funny as you could want. She's excellent at making you feel that both Lawrence and Freddy might actually be horrible gits taking advantage of a good-hearted but naive young woman, all for a bet.
Hound mentioned that the audience vibe can change depending on how they perceive the whole Christina-Lawrence-Freddy triangle. We talked about how the audience is a part of the performance and I told him that's why I loved the Globe so much. There you almost had unofficial permission to be part of the play and the actors used the audience. It is half-sporting event, half-play, which Rufus pointed out was the kind of environment that Shakespeare would have had in mind when writing the plays. That was the vibe that he was hoping to get from the audience on good nights with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
The other pair of performers deserving of praise are Samantha Bond as Muriel Eubanks and John Marquez as Andre Thibault. They have a series of wonderful little scenes in the second act, including a song called 'Like Zis/Like Zat' and a lovely post-coital discombobulated moment that made me laugh a lot.
So I recommend going along to see this. Yes, it could be musically stronger but the whole thing is still well worth watching because it is very, very funny and performed with real brilliance by the cast. I'd happily go and see it again because I suspect every performance has a different rhythm and different laughs depending on how things go and how an audience reacts. It certainly cheered up this tired old cynic.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels plays the Savoy Theatre.