The original Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was a 1988 movie with Steve Martin and Michael Caine. I can’t remember if I ever saw it, or if I just saw the trailer in a theatre and got a general sense of it – a goofy story of con artists trying to beat each other at their shared game.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is also a musical, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, who seems to have a career of making unlikely movie comedies into musicals that one would never expect, such as Full Monty and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Plain Jane did this one last spring but I didn’t write about it) The musical is currently being performed by the local company Foote in the Door Productions.
I didn’t really remember anything about the plot or characters of the movie when I went to see it opening night, and I decided not to listen to the soundtrack ahead of time. It was a lot of fun this way. I could immediately pick out the character tropes (Russ Farmer as the sophisticated English con artist and Trevor J as the uncouth American one, Melanie Lafleur as a rich gullible visitor to the Mediterranean resort and Zack Siezmagraff as a crooked French police officer who reminded me of Captain Renault in Casablanca. But the plot had a lot of twists I didn’t anticipate, and both the storyline and the general character ridiculousness had me giggling a lot. I asked director Carolyn Waye beforehand what she’d most enjoyed about working on this production. She said that they had all laughed a lot during rehearsals, and she couldn’t wait to watch an audience enjoy the bits they’d already had so much fun with.
I was so caught up watching the interplay of the two con artists with their various marks and allies, along with some delightful dance interludes (highlighting Megan Beaupre, Julia Stanski, Tim Lo, and Andrew Kwan) that it took me a while to realize that I hadn’t yet seen the other Foote in the Door principal, Ruth Wong-Miller. She appears later, as Christine Colgate, the American Soap Queen. Both scammers see Christine as an ideal target, so they decide to compete for her money, the loser to leave town.
The songs had very clever lyrics and enough changes of genre to be interesting, especially Shannon Hunt’s “Oklahoma” and the cheesy rock ballad “Love is my Legs”. Matt Graham was musical director of a nine-piece ensemble, visible behind sets of French doors and acknowledged occasionally by the script when characters called for changes of atmosphere, but never overpowering the singers.
This show is a lot of fun. The two hours flew by for me, and the endings were surprising and satisfying. Foote in the Door has tackled some more serious material (Carousel) and more complex drama (Company) – but I think it’s equally impressive that they pulled off this heist of a tall tale without a hitch.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is playing at L’Unitheatre until November 10th. Tickets are available through Tix on the Square