BWW Reviews: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, The Savoy Theatre, April 1 2014
Zut alors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has arrived for its first West End run. A big, fat musical with jewels and dance numbers dripping from each finger, this show's lavish set and wonderful melodies truly make it a one of the best musicals written in recent years - and likely to endure as such.
Comfortably settled in the French Riviera, one Lawrence Jameson (dentist, prince, conman extraordinaire) makes a happy living from convincing gullible female millionaires - one of whom is played exquisitely by Samantha Bond - to donate to his cause.
Lawrence is informed by Andre, his assistant, that another con artist is on the prowl in their terrority, so when he sees Freddy Benson trick a woman into buying his lunch on the train, Lawrence thinks he has quickly sized up and sent away the pitiful competition. But Freddy angrily follows the egotistical Lawrence, who says he will show Freddy how conning is done...but it all goes wrong and after Freddy saves him from an unhappy marriage and forced emigration to Oklahoma, the boys seem more like rivals - place a bet on who can get fifty grand out of the first girl they see. That girl turns out to be Christine Colgate, played by the wonderful Katherine Kingsley.
Now, before seeing this show, if you do not wish to know further intricacies of the plot, please do not watch the 1988 film or listen to the whole CD - I'd recommend going no further than "Son of Great Big Stuff". While the anticipation of waiting for certain events is quite fun, there is an audible collective gasp from audience members who didn't know what was about to transpire, and seeing them played out is surely more fun than being told of them, even by John Lithgow.
The London cast is simply fabulous; Robert Lindsay is genuinely and constantly hilarious as Lawrence. While he doesn't have the best voice in the world, his vocal ability is more than enough for this show's needs and his smooth dance sequences are fantastic. Lindsay is just undeniably cool.
Rufus Hound plays Freddy with childish enthusiasm, and even those who aren't huge fans of his comedy might well enjoy him in this role; Hound's interpretation suits him and the script and its direction are funny in their own right anyway.
Samantha Bond is by turns scintillating and adorable as Muriel, with one of her lines literally being laughed at so much the second half of it was inaudible. Again, she is not a singer, but her romance with John Marquez's character is utterly delightful and one of the most hilarious moments was when the unlikely pair followed up their sweetly awkward romantic number by galloping through another scene, holding champagne and handcuffs aloft. Marquez is also excellent throughout. Katherine Kingsley powerhouses through this difficult sing and her characterisation is brilliant. As well as being a wonderful actress, this woman is simply funny, and her slightly gawky portrayal of Christine is a joy. The cast are supported by an gifted ensemble, who apparently sing so well that some of the score has been re-arranged for them.
Jerry Mitchell's direction and choreography is bold, fun and always stylistically appropriate; he has truly got the most out of his fantastic cast. Peter McKintosh's complex set also contributes greatly to the piece's feel, setting us comfortably in the imagined-perfect world of the Beaumont Sur Mer. The often present palm trees and the oddities of Ruprecht's lair are particularly lovely.
David Yazbek's music and lyrics really are stunning. The soaring melodies are complex, yet far more memorable than most modern musical theatre, and the lyrics are extremely witty. Jeffrey Lane's book pairs beautifully with Yazbeck's work - they make an excellent partnership. Plot, score, one-liners - this show has it all.
While much of the less appropriate humour is in the fast-paced lyrics and would probably go over children's heads, there is a little by way of content: not least the potentially offensive portrayal of Ruprecht, Lawrence's fake brother. All in all, though, please do go and see this show; it's wonderful.
Dirty Rotten Soundrels runs at the Savoy Theatre until 29th November.