Gruff, Gourmet Guffaws Roll and Roll at Cape Playhouse
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" hits the spot!
By Libby Hughes, drama critic for CapeCodToday
Women are so stupid. They fall for flattery and romance with the kiss of a hand or a single red rose. Then, they are goners. They give their hearts, their jewels, and their bank accounts to a handsome con-man. It could be Palm Beach or Malibu or Cape Cod. In the case of the musical "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" in Dennis, it is the French Riviera where a couple of cons are stalking wealthy widows or rich singles.
Opening night for the third show, which is half way through the season, struck it rich with this musical. The guffaws rolled and rolled. For the first time, every seat in the house was full. A hot, steamy July night made no difference. No one looked at their watches. More than two hours of singing and dancing had the audience enthralled as they watched the men trying to outwit the women. Sometimes those attempts backfired. Who was outwitting whom? The battle of the sexes was fun and wildly funny.
Film and stage history
This musical has quite a history. It began in 1964 as a film called "Bedtime Story" with Marlon Brando and David Niven. Then, it had a remake in 1988 as a film, called "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine. Finally, in 2005, a third incarnation was a stage musical on Broadway. Usually the reverse happens. A stage musical makes its way into a film such as "Mamma Mia," which has just been released. Jeffrey Lane wrote the book, and David Yazbek composed the music and lyrics for "Scoundrels.". It will be a touring success through the rest of 2008 and to Europe in 2009. "Scoundrels" is closer to a traditional American musical than we have seen in a couple of decades.
The cast is huge
Eighteen in the cast is huge for a small theatre like the Cape Playhouse and expensive. The leads and the ensemble are skilled professionals. With the ever-talented director Mark Martino and choreographer Denis Jones, the ensemble negotiated their way around arches and scenery without a hitch. We saw what Martino did with "Guys and Dolls" some time back. Phenomenal. He has done the same with "Scoundrels." Take a bow.
Brent Barrett took confident command of the stage as one of the suave con-men, Lawrence Jamieson. He was irresistible to women, convincing them that he was royalty--his highness or a prince. They swooned and dropped diamonds and cash in his lap. Barrett was adept at giving a flavor of French and German accents. His sense of comedy and timing were fine-tuned. John Scherer played a low-keyed, French Andre--sidekick to Jamieson and Mr. Fix-it. Perry Ojeda was a totally engaging Freddy, a student of con-artistry. Ojeda was a cross between Bob Denver of "Gilligan's Island" and the bumbling Peter Sellers. What a voice--even from a wheelchair. He used broad Vaudevillian style comedy. There are some devilishly hysterical scenes with Freddy in a wheelchair. Last but not least, the male members of the ensemble also were incredible.
Dee Hoty swirls in and out of scenes as Muriel, pursuing her handsome con-prince. Andre draws upon his own romantic skills to dissuade her into focusing her attentions on him. Heather Parcells as Jolene Oakes is the first wealthy, female prey. She turns out to be a Texas hoe-down dancer, who escapes the clutches of the con-men. Stephanie Youell as Christine cons the guys with her syrupy innocence and lack of money. The female ensemble came and conquered, too.
Set and lighting
Christopher Chambers has done the best lighting plan since joining the Cape Playhouse staff. If this is a "bus and truck" show, the scenery by Dan Kuchar is magic. The six white arches change colors and light up. A curved staircase flies in and out. A Riviera casino is lit in the background. Small sets slide back and forth from the wings. One snafu happened with the dining car. It got caught by one of the arches. Mr. Barrett pulled it to safety and received a round of applause. Two side-lamps went cockeyed. Mr. Barrett and Ms. Hoty tried to right them, but without success. The audience loved it when Mr. Barrett partially succeeded. The many costumes by Angela M. Kahler were effective.
Who has a live, nine-piece orchestra these days? This musical. The ensemble profited by Phil Reno's Musical Direction, assisted by William Johnson.
The tickets to this show are hot. Get on the phone to the Cape Playhouse in Dennis early before they are sold out. Call 508-385-3911. Monday through Saturday at 8:00 pm. Matinees Wed. at 2:00 pm; Sat. 7/26 at 4:00 pm; Thursday 7/31 at 2:00 pm.
This little honey is the best so far!