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Review: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Stageworks Theatre

Stageworks starts their summer off with a light-hearted musical comedy

Review: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Stageworks Theatre

Anyone looking for a light-hearted romp with verve to start off their summer would do well to make their way to Stageworks Theatre to see their delightfully fun production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. With a zany book by Jeffrey Lane and catchy score by David Yazbek (also known for The Full Monty, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Tony Award-winner The Band's Visit), the musical was nominated for Best Musical, Book, and Score at the 2005 Tony Awards. With confident direction by Jeremy Dumont and a talented cast, this production will have you laughing, smiling, and getting carried away by a tale of guile and deceit in the picturesque French Riviera.


An adaptation of the 1988 film of the same name (which starred comedy legends Steve Martin and Michael Caine), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels tells the story of seasoned conman Lawrence Jameson as he takes on Freddy Benson-not the beloved iCarly character, but a younger and more inexperienced scammer-as his pupil. Hijinks ensue as the two set their sights on the "American Soap Queen," Christine Colgate, and decide to compete to see who can swindle $50,000 out of her first.

As you can imagine, much of the charm of this show relies on its two leads, and while Brandon Del Castillo and Taylor Fisher do not live up to the comedic excellence of Martin and Caine, they know what makes their characters funny and they serve to the best of their ability. Del Castillo captures Lawrence's pretension and self-obsession, while Fisher brings an appropriate amount of verve and crude charisma to the less refined Freddy. Fisher is also the stronger singer of the two, letting out some clean belts during his character's more challenging songs.

Anyone concerned, considering the premise of the musical, that Christine may end up a two-dimensional pawn of the two men, allow me to assuage your fears; Christine gives as good as she gets and Amanda Hart Bassett makes a meal of the role (she also rocks the house with a belt that soars to the back wall of the theatre).

The women in this show get to have every bit as much fun as the guys, as Kelsey Heaton and Dru Peacock Wiser tear up their scenes as the ever-present tag-along Muriel Eubanks and the unhinged Oklahoman Jolene Oakes, respectively. Wiser, in particular, earned her own standing ovation at curtain call for the gung-ho way she commits to her character's Sooner State insanity.

Review: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Stageworks Theatre
Dru Peacock Wiser and Brandon Del Castillo
Photography credit: Shandra Wilkinson and Lauren Harrell

The music direction, by Brandon Tanner, does justice to David Yazbek's jazzy score, backed by energetic choreography by Adam W. Delka. Some of the group numbers could use some more careful balancing, but the solo numbers are sublime, especially "What Was a Woman to Do," "Great Big Stuff," "Love is My Legs," and "Dirty Rotten Number."

The design is also effective; simple where it needs to be and resplendent when allowed. The costume team, consisting of Amy Duren, Susan Holmes, Julie Montgomery, Barbara Terry, Shandra Wilkinson, and Stephanie Wisdom, provide some lovely eye candy, especially for Christine. Bassett gets to wear lively yellows and blues that reinforce not only her character's wholesomeness but her openness as well. Meanwhile, the cow-print and fringe that Wiser is decked out in might be a bit on the nose, but she feels so comfortable in it that it becomes like a second skin (major props to her for being able to do high kicks in those leather pants).

Review: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Stageworks Theatre
Taylor Fisher and Amanda Hart Bassett
Photography credit: Shandra Wilkinson and Lauren Harrell

The set design, by Ben Mason, cleverly utilizes two blue curtains to provide a variety of effects. At the beginning of the play, they operate as a scrim, but as the show goes on they are draped, tied, and pulled into different arrangements to suggest a variety of different locations. The lights, by David Palmer, also evoke the old-school flash and spectacle that Lawrence and Freddy embody.

I won't lie and say that the script is substantive. There are a few outdated jokes (I'm looking at you, Ruprecht) but they are not too intrusive and do not take away from the show's campy charms. You may just find yourself invested in Lawrence and Freddy's little engagement and smiling at the eccentric antics that they incite.


Dirty Rotten Scoundrels runs through June 12 at Stageworks Theatre at 10760 Grant Road, Houston, TX 77070. Tickets start at $26 and can be purchased below or by contacting the box office at (281) 587-6100.


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