BWW Reviews: Musical Version of DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Worth the Wait

Few moviegoers were thinking about the musical potential of DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS when it was released as a movie in 1988.

However, the movie producers were. According to the International Movie DataBase, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and singer David Bowie were originally cast for the roles. When they had to back out of the project, the roles were given to Steve Martin and Michael Caine.

It took another 16 years for lyrist David Yazbek and writer Jeffrey Lane to turn the movie into a successful Broadway hit. CATCO's production of DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, which opened on July 23, made the wait worthwhile.

The two-act, two-and-a-half hour show uses a talented cast and solid direction by Steven C. Anderson to bring to life the story of two con men on the French Rivera out to decrease the fortunes of as many moneyed females as they can. Matt Clemens gives a spirited performance as the suave, sophisticated Lawrence, who passes himself off as an exiled prince trying to return to power. With the help of his right-hand man Andre (Todd Covert), the town's chief of police, he swindles the bored, wealthy women who come to vacation at the French resort.

Things work perfectly for Lawrence and Andre until the emergence of Freddy (Joe Bishara), a boorish, Hawaiian shirt wearing American scam artist determined to squeeze a few bucks from unsuspecting tourists. After the two try to work together, Freddy makes a wager that he can out-con Lawrence by taking "American soap queen" Christine Colgate (Liz Wheeler) for $50,000. Lawrence states the winner gets to stay at the resort while the loser must practice his con games elsewhere in "China, Iceland, and to prove I'm not being unfair, Pataskala."

However, without giving away too much of the plot, Colgate has a few plans of her own.

Clemens, Covert and Bishara are nicely matched as a trio, with each one bringing something unique to their character. Bishara is as coarse, especially in songs like "Great Big Stuff" as Clemens is refined while performing "Give Them What They Want" and "Love Sneaks In." Covert, who becomes entangled in a romantic subplot with Lawrence's castoff Muriel (Susan Brunsold Wilson), brings as a sense of dry wit to the production.

Colgate shines as a seemingly guileless tourist who falls into the schemes of Freddy and Lawrence yet comes out on top in the end. She provides the show its' innocence in "Here I Am" as well as its moral counterpunch to Freddy's bravado in "Son of Great Big Stuff."

Wilson showcases her lovely singing voice in numbers like "What Was A Woman To Do?" as well as in her duet with Andre in "Like Zis/Like Zat." Alexa Joy Rybynski showcases her comic chops in "Oklahoma?" which offers a vastly different view of the Sooner State than Rodgers and Hammerstein: "Through the windows of the pickup we'll be peekin.' Not a tree or a Jew to block the lovely view. There's a race track and a zoo and Oral Roberts U!"

Beth Conley, Annie Huckaba and Andrew Protopapas also play a variety of roles to keep the show moving along. Catchy word play and an entertaining plot make DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS another fresh and exciting addition to CATCO's summer palate.

It's too bad Bowie and Jagger weren't there to see what they missed.

CATCO presents DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS 8 p.m. July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 7-9 in the Studio One Theatre of the Vern Riffe Center (77 South High Street in downtown Columbus). There are also four matinee performances of the show at 11 a.m. July 30 and Aug. 6 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 3 and Aug. 10. Ticket can be purchased at the Ticket Office, 39 E. State St., or by calling 614-469-0939.

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From This Author Paul Batterson