Tuesday 1 April 2014

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Savoy Theatre, London


Music and lyrics by David Yazbek
Written by Jeffrey Lane
Directed by Jerry Mitchell

Rufus Hound and Robert Lindsay

Located in the plush basement of one of London’s grandest hotels, the Savoy Theatre could not be a more fitting venue for a show that gloriously revolves around both the real and (far more entertainingly) the illusory trappings of wealth and style. This UK premiere of David Yazbek's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a chic and jazzy treat, with the show's cracking overture in particular being a perfect scene setter. 

The story owes its modern-day fame to the classic movie caper starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine. The screen giants played two rival con-men plying the French Riviera and out to fleece millionaire heiress Christine Colgate, of her fortune. In the right hands the tale is comedy gold, with Yazbeck describing the movie as “ripe for adaptation”. The Tony winning show first opened in the US in 2006, directed by Jack O'Brien with Jerry Mitchell choreographing. This time round, in addition to the dance work, Mitchell returns to helm the show, describing his take on the the piece as “re-conceived and re-imagined”. Whilst the producers can be assured of a hit as this is (yet another) musical that has been safely based upon and inspired by a massive movie, it still bursts with invigorating panache and style. 

Gimmick free, there is a reliance upon the traditional values of strong tunes, clever lyrics and classy performances. The movie set a high bar for the two leading men and when it comes to delivering faux class in London, Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound as the lovable rogues are sublime. Lindsay, surely another national treasure in waiting, plays the cool and experienced con Lawrence Jameson, with his first appearance on stage prompting an unusual (and British traditionalists may venture to suggest, unwelcome) New York style round of applause. Sliding into the piece with a suave charm, he seals the illusion of the Riviera location. Alongside Hound, very much an emergent star of the modern era, the two are an engine of pinpoint pace, delivering some of the best comic timing in town. 

Other stand out performances come from Katherine Kingsley's Colgate, whose voice gives Yazbeck’s melodies a sexiness and innocence, whilst John Marquez as Andre Thibault has a great time with some of Jeffrey Lane’s cheeky one liners. Mitchell’s direction is canny throughout, though his choreography despite being stunning and sharp, lacks a risk that may well have given some of the bigger ensemble numbers greater impact. 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is an example of first class musical theatre. One grins throughout and in much the same way that rascal Jameson returns to to the Riviera for each season, so are audiences likely to do the same for this dirty rotten treat of a show. 

Booking to 29th November 2014

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