Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Written on July 16th, 2008

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Book by Jeffrey Lane
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
Performed by Brian McKay, Stephen Patterson & Company
Directed by Alex Mustakas
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
July 16 to August 9, 2008
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Broadway comes to B-Line

I used to wonder what the “B” stood for in B-Line, the road just east of Grand Bend. Now I know – it stands for Broadway! With the arrival of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Huron Country Playhouse is a Broadway theatre.

Drayton Entertainment’s production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the Canadian premier of this Broadway hit, showing first in St. Jacobs and now in Grand Bend. In fact, the sets and costumes for this show arrived directly from the Broadway show, in three big transports from New York.

So with spectacular sparkling sets and numerous fantastic costume changes, all that was left for Director Alex Mustakas to do, was find the right cast. And he has. He has assembled 18 very talented all-Canadian actors/singers/dancers, who can easily rival any New York cast.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was a popular movie in 1988 starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. Then the musical opened on Broadway in June 2005, with John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz. It garnered 11 Tony nominations that year, with Butz winning the best actor award for his riotous performance.

It’s the story of Lawrence Jameson, a con-artist who works the upscale resorts of the French Riviera. He is suave and debonair, attracting all the rich widows and young debutantes who turn over their jewellery and fortunes to him. But along comes a small-time grifter, Freddy Benson, who is swindling for meals. Freddy wants Lawrence to teach him the ropes, and the two become partners and then competitors in various scams. There is a special surprise ending that really pleases the audience, as the swindles unfold.

Brian McKay is perfect as the charming and sophisticated Lawrence, delightfully conning all the ladies. A former artistic director at Huron Country Playhouse, McKay has an impressive resume from Stratford to Broadway.

Stephen Patterson, also very familiar to Huron Country Playhouse audiences, is excellent as Freddy Benson. His rendition of the song “Great Big Stuff” is hilarious as he admires all the trappings of Lawrence’s lavish mansion, while the maids and servants parade around with materialistic items such as works of art and silver bowls. Patterson is outrageous when he pretends to be Ruprecht, the mysterious brother locked away in the cellar. Then he performs the side-splitting number “Love is My Legs” as he stumbles out of the wheelchair and miraculously learns to walk.

Heather McGuigan is outstanding as Christine Colgate, the soap heiress. McGuigan played the lead role in The Spitfire Grill at the Grand Theatre last year, where she was a toughened tomboy. These two roles show her great versatility – she’s a clever actor and an amazing singer.

Adding to the comedy are Patrick Brown as Andre Thibault, the corrupt chief of police, and Rebecca Poff as the ditzy but wealthy Muriel Eubanks. Brown maintains an amusing French accent in the style of Inspector Clouseau, while Poff delivers many hilarious one-liners with perfect comedic timing. Brown has many credits at Huron Country Playhouse, including Cogsworth in their very popular Beauty and the Beast, while Poff will be remembered for her Aldonza in Man of LaMancha, and Marion The Librarian in The Music Man.

Christy Adamson has fun with the role of Jolene Oakes from Oklahoma, giving a great performance of country singin’ and dancin’.

The ensemble consists of six young men and woman who dazzle the audience with glitzy costumes and high kicking. The chorus members have an abundance of energy, singing and dancing on stage, then racing back stage to change yet again into various colourful gowns, wigs and shoes.

This musical has great fun alluding to other musicals. When Lawrence decides to mentor Freddy, he becomes Henry Higgins fixing up Eliza in My Fair Lady. Later, we relive Oklahoma! with a team of sparkling, dancing cowboys.

A word of warning – in certain parts, the “Scoundrels” are a little bit vulgar. If you are easily offended, leave your prudish hat at home and let your hair down. And this is not a show for youngsters; get a babysitter and come out for some laughs.

I rarely say that I would like to go back and see a show a second time, but this is one show that I would love to see again. There are so many subtle jokes; I know I missed some along the way. I would like to return and catch them all.

Enjoy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, it’s Broadway quality. So, let’s start petitioning the municipality of South Huron to rename the B-Line Broadway!

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels continues with eight shows a week until August 9 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available at the Huron Country Playhouse box office at (519) 238-6000, Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check out www.draytonentertainment.com

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