Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, music and lyrics by David Yazbeck, book by Jeffrey Lanz, based on the film script by Dale Launer and Stanley Shapiro & Paul Henning. Directed by Michael Marotta.
"A new leg under the tree."
Matthew Daly and a bevy of beauties; photo provided
When this show opened on Broadway in 2005, starring John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz, it came with credentials. Based on a very successful 1988 movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, itself based on a reasonably successful movie made in 1964 starring David Niven and Marlon Brando (Bedtime Story), the show also boasted a score by the hottest new songwriter in town, whose previous show, "The Full Monty" which opened in 2000, had been a big hit. "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" followed by four years and played 650 performances.
In brief the story is this: Con-Man Lawrence Jamieson, tries to prevent younger Con-Man Freddy Benson from poaching on his territory in the south of France but, unsuccessful, agrees to coach his rival instead. When Freddy helps him out of a difficult, near-marital situation, they agree to work as partners - again reluctantly - to fleece a young heiress. What follows is foolish rivalry, shanghaiing, misconceptions and general hilarity.
At the Theater Barn in New Lebanon all of this is now firmly on their stage under the deliciously magical direction and musical staging of artistic director Michael Marotta. Marotta knows how to make this material sell and he understands that nasty, somewhat despicable characters can still charm an audience and make them laugh and applaud. He uses every trick available to him here and it pays off nicely.
Megan Rozak, this yearís musical heroine, does a nice job with the difficult role of Christine Colgate, a role that originated way back when with Shirley Jones. The musical variation gives to this woman a strange twist of fate that helps the show on its route to success. Rozak is up to the challenge. She sings and dances and does physical comedy with ease. She romances both her leading men, playing to their strengths and using their weaknesses. Her variation on the seductress is adorable (she is a zaftig chick) and her smile is a great part of her charm.
The two men she seduces with her innocence are Trey Compton as Freddy and Matthew Daly as Lawrence. Compton does bumptious very well. He is crude, mawkish and unattractive until groomed by his mentor. His loud-mouthed assertions are wonderfully delivered and this actor can project voice and personality equally well across the footlights. His loutish performance is just perfect in the context of this show and he just couldnít be much better if he tried.
As the elegant, older man, Lawrence, Matthew Daly makes a much needed return to this stage. A popular favorite, and one of my personal favorites as well, he is ideally suited to this role. He can even make his unpleasant sneer into an attractive gesture as he sings, dances and romances Rozak, only one of his many conquests in this show as well as Muriel of Omaha and Jolene of Oklahoma. Daly, warmly remembered for his performance in "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks" a few seasons back, has developed a more charming side and it works well for him here.
Jerielle Morwitz is a pleasure to see and hear as Muriel Eubanks; her light handed comedy is a pleasant alternative to the more heavy-handed Rozak providing a sensual counterpoint. Daniel Moser is all right as Andre, although his singing wasnít up the standard he presented in his previous show here. Leslie Dorsett is a fine looking, if inadequate singing, Jolene Oakes but she is hilarious in the scene in which she is discouraged from marrying Lawrence. The chorus/ensemble is exceptionally fine although the band could barely be heard (too much fabric, I believe on the teasers that allow for speedy scene changes - a trade-off that doesnít work for me, Iím afraid).
The team of Phelps and Phelps (Abe - set, and Allen - lights) with the aid of director Marotta has produced a fine looking production aided immeasurably by the charming, appropriate and often very funny costumes by Jacci Fredenburg and Kate R. Mincer.
But it is the show that counts with a show like this one and this one is just about as fine as it could be. Talents meld beautifully on this occasion providing a treat of a two and a half hour musical, one whose happy ending keeps on getting happier. So does its audience.
Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels plays through September 6 at the Theater Barn at 654 Route 20, in New Lebanon, NY. For information and tickets call 518-794-8989.