Review: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Arizona Broadway Theatre

The production runs through June 4th in Arizona Broadway Theatre’s Mainstage Theatre in Peoria, AZ.

By: May. 14, 2023
Review: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Arizona Broadway Theatre
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Think glamor, think the French Riviera. The Côte d'Azur. The playground for the rich and famous ~ and, for sure, a magnet for the infamous ~ that has attracted film makers and playwrights for decades, from Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch A Thief to Noël Coward's Private Lives.

Enter Jeffrey Lane (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and David Yazbek (The Full Monty) to add DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS to this treasury. (The musical adaptation of the 1988 MGM blockbuster, featuring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, was a Broadway success, garnering eleven Tony nominations in 2005.)

The story follows two con artists, Lawrence Jameson and Freddy Benson. Jameson is the c*ckof the Riviera walk, oozing charm and self-adoration, enabled in his felonious schemes by the village police chief, Andre Thibault. All is in order until another grifter, Freddy (the prototypical but not to be underestimated schlump), ambles into the scene, upsetting Lawrence's golden apple cart. After all, who needs competition? In short order, Freddy assumes the role of protégé to the master, and the two set out to ply their trade among unsuspecting traveling widows and divorcees. One tempting mark is Christine Colgate, represented as an American "soap" queen and wealthy heiress. The gents make a deal as to who will succeed in swindling the dame out of $50,000. Thereupon, the battle of wits proceeds.

Lane's cleverly crafted script is loaded with sharp dialogue and clever banter, hilarious one-liners, well-timed comedic moments, and occasional unexpected plot twists. Take note, though: If you're willing to put up with, or even take some forbidden delight in, risqué double entendres and off-color jokes, then you're in for a treat and a heck of a joy ride. There's a line near the end of the musical that pretty well sums up the point. Lawrence says to Freddy, "What you lack in grace, you certainly make up for in vulgarity." That's DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS in a nutshell...almost.

The leading duo of Steve McCoy as Lawrence and Nathan David Smith as Freddy delivers shining performances. They are two opposites whose attraction generates a palpable chemistry. They skillfully navigate the intricacies of their roles, effortlessly transitioning between humorous bouts of one-upmanship and poignant moments of vulnerability.

Steve McCoy delivers a convincing and nuanced portrayal of the seasoned (but aging) con man ~ a man of brio and panache. His Lawrence exudes sophistication and charm and an irresistible inclination for self-admiration.

A character of such style and temperament as Lawrence's begs for contrast, and Nathan David Smith delivers the goods as Freddy. Brash, crude, and clumsy, Freddy is Lawrence's polar opposite. He may be less refined, but he makes up for it with street smarts and quick thinking.

Smith steals the show. He displays his chops and triple-threat versatility right off the bat in Great Big Stuff, the number that heralds the story's theme ~ the insatiable desire for luxury and excess. Smith is a force of nature, tearing up the stage with manic antics and showcasing his exceptional comedic timing and versatile singing abilities. Unleashed but amazingly endearing!

As Christine Colgate, Kelsey Seaman is the duo's equal, imbuing her role with a credible representation of an American innocent abroad. She fills the air with powerful and captivating vocals, most notably when she joins McCoy in singing the romantic ballad Love Sneaks In. As the play progresses, Christine may not be the pushover that the rogues think her to be. It turns out that there's more to her background in soap than meets the eye ~ and Seaman disguises all possibilities with perfect guise.

Review: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Arizona Broadway Theatre

There's a comic subplot that features a budding romance between the village's police chief (Michael Kreutz) and Muriel Eubanks (Carolyn McPhee), a thirsty-for-affection divorcee. It may feel like an unnecessary addition to an already complete plot, but the pair justify their presence with solid performances.

The icing on this musical's scenario of skullduggery ~ saved for the last but not the least part of this coverage of the actors ~ is the show-stopping performance of Alicia Babin as Jolene Oakes, an eccentric and flamboyant Oklahoman heiress. Babin exudes gusto in a rip-roaring and foot-stomping sequence of Oklahoma?, a hilarious and irreverent paean to the Panhandle.

Review: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Arizona Broadway Theatre

Music director Michael Ursua deftly guides the show through a blend of different musical styles, ranging from pop and jazz to vaudevillian tunes and ballads. The result is a vibrant and entertaining score that complements the show's comedic storytelling.

Kurtis Overby's dynamic choreography electrifies the stage with intricate dance numbers that showcase the ensemble's versatility ~ fast footwork, syncopated rhythms, and intricate formations ~ in handling various dance styles that match the eclectic nature of the score.

Jim Hunter's set design transports the ABT stage to the village of Beaumont-sur-Mer and its casino. A prominent arrangement of deco-style fans figures large on the stage, suggesting the elegance and grandeur of the village's casino. There is smart economy in the staging of this production ~ a balustrade that serves as the frame for various scenes, furniture and accessories that accentuate the shifts in focus ~ that ensures minimal distractions from the showcasing of the cast's outstanding talents.

Dr. Heather Striebel's costumes are exquisitely detailed, capturing the elegance and sophistication of the characters while adding an extra layer of visual splendor to the performance.

The lighting (Bret Reese) and sound design (Jesse Worley) are also top-notch, effectively enhancing the mood and atmosphere of each scene.

It must be said, though, that, while the musical is a gem of a production, there are a few issues to be noted. The pacing can feel uneven at times, with some scenes feeling overly long or repetitive. Also, it is meant to be a lighthearted comedy, but some of the jokes and plot points may be considered problematic by some among modern audiences. For example, the show features a subplot in which Freddy poses as a paralyzed veteran to gain sympathy from his marks.

So, to the bottom line: Arizona Broadway Theatre's production of DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, directed by Clayton Phillips, is overall a brisk and thoroughly entertaining venture, filled to the brim with cheeky charm, razor-sharp wit, and a talented cast that effortlessly brings the story to life.

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS runs through June 4th in Arizona Broadway Theatre's Mainstage Theatre.

Arizona Broadway Theatre ~ 7701 W. Paradise Lane, Peoria, AZ ~ https://azbroadway.org/ ~ Box office: 623-776-8400

Photo credit to Alexxis Grant, Timeless Present Photography and Design ~ https://www.timelesspresentphotos.com/



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