Story: Lawrence Jameson has made a very good living as a con artist on the French Riviera. He has a palatial estate not far from the casino where he plies his trade, with the assistance of local police inspector Andre. While relaxing at a café, he notices a loud American doing a cheap swindle on an unsuspecting tourist. He mildly chastises the Yankee, Freddy Benson, and compares his debonair style with Freddie’s blunter approach. Intrigued, Freddy asks Lawrence to mentor him.
At first Lawrence refuses, but after Freddie rescues him from marriage to an Oklahoma cowgirl whom Lawrence conned, he agrees to work with Freddie. They make a bet, though, that they’ll compete for the next target, with the loser getting out of town. That new object turns out to be Christine Colgate, the “American Soap Queen” from Cincinnati. While Lawrence asks Andre to fend off the affections of another American, Muriel, by keeping her company, Lawrence and Freddie set their sights on bilking the woman they believe is the scion of a famous American company.
Highlights: St. Louisan Norbert Leo Butz as Freddie won the only Tony Award, as Best Actor, for this 2005 Broadway musical that garnered 10 nominations. Based on a 1988 movie of the same name starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin that was in turn inspired by a 1960s flick titled Bedtime Story, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels features a book by Jeffrey Lane with music and lyrics by David Yazbek.
It’s a mildly diverting show, but one that director Adam Grun has lovingly brought to the Kirkwood Theatre Guild stage for the community theater’s annual musical. With fine performances by players in the leading roles and an enthusiastic and acceptable ensemble backing them up, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a generally pleasant evening of entertainment.
Other Info: Grun keeps the action moving at a steady pace while shrewdly making good use of the plentiful members of the ensemble, especially on some numbers nicely choreographed by Kim Klick that well utilize the Reim Theater stage.
Vocally, there are standout performances by Caitlin Mickey as the optimistic Christine and Carrie Priesmeyer as Muriel, the middle-age Nebraskan with an eye on adventure. The former belts out the up-tempo bit, Nothing Is Too Wonderful to Be True, in grand style, while the latter displays her own considerable singing ability on the wistful ballad, What Was a Woman to Do? Both also handle comedy well.
Stephanie Merritt brings a genial style to her single number, Oklahoma?, as the brash gal from the sagebrush, while the amusing Ken Lopinot as Andre shows his disdain for the vulgar Freddy, no matter how he’s dressed, in the wry tune, Chimp in a Suit.
Kent Coffel is sure and steady as the urbane swindler Lawrence, even if his adequate singing is overshadowed by his own more plentiful comic skills. As Freddy, Ryan Glosemeyer also displays a penchant for the laughs that clearly exceeds his vocal talents. That’s OK, though, as the ladies more than make up for any singing problems with their excellent voices.
The same can’t be said for the orchestral accompaniment, which too often sounds shrill and discordant, particularly with the struggling strings and brass sections under Sean Adams’ musical direction and the conducting of Sean Bippen.
Merrick Mohler’s set design nicely conveys the ambience of the Maison Beaumont where the actions takes place, with the orchestra strategically placed on the second floor behind some curtains. Emily Robinson decks the players out in a variety of elegant outfits, apart from the intentionally garish attire of Freddy. John (JT) Taylor adds atmospheric lighting and Amanda Jackson provides sound.
It’s not the best musical ever written, and this is far from a sterling production, but Dirty Rotten Scoundrels makes for a passable evening.
Musical: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Group: Kirkwood Theatre Guild
Venue: Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer
Dates: May 10, 11, 12, 13
Tickets: $22; contact 821-9956 or ktg-onstage.tix.org
Rating: A 3 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of John Lamb