Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Oscar Levant once said that “a pun is the lowest form of humor…if you didn’t think of it first.” For lovers of puns, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” by Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek, this week’s Broadway Series presentation at the Community Center in Sacramento, will have you in hog heaven. The puns come fast and furious. Groaning was a frequent response of the audience throughout the evening. (“I’m Muriel of Omaha.” “Pleased to meet you.” “It’s mutual.”)

Based on the 1988 movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, this production is slick looking with fabulous sets by David Rockwell and costumes by Greg Barnes.

Tom Hewitt is Lawrence Jamison, who has been living on the Riviera, playing a faux prince and bilking rich American women out of their money for years. He becomes a Henry Higgins-esque mentor who takes a brash American con-man, Freddy Bensen (D.B. Bonds) under his wing to teach him the finer points of swindling.

“Chimp in a Suit,” sung by Jamison’s right hand man, the gendarme Andre Thibault (Drew McVety) is a scene right out of “My Fair Lady,” as Jamison attempts to teach Freddy how to dress and act the part. Freddy is a more than willing pupil when he looks around Jamison’s mansion and decides that he, too, wants “Great Big Stuff.”

When the first lesson, the wooing of the hyperactive oil heiress Jolene Oakes (Jenifer [sic] Foote), goes terribly wrong, Jamison is helped out of his predicament by Freddy pretending to be a brother with one too many (or perhaps too few) chromosomes in his DNA.

It soon become apparent that the Riviera isn’t big enough for two scoundrels, and so when the “Soap Queen,” Christine Colgate (Laura Marie Duncan, from the Broadway cast of this show) arrives on the scene, Jamison and Freddie agree to a contest—whoever can get $50,000 out of her will be the winner and the other will leave town. The contest soon turns personal, as they each vie not for her money, but for her affections. There are more than a few surprising twists and turns in the plot before the finale.

This is a delightful cast, with Hewitt the suave, elegant and debonair gentleman to Bonds’ crass yet delightful cad.

McVety is a Frenchman (“only by birth and affectation”) who hasn’t learned to be a ladies man yet, until forced to deal with Muriel Eubanks (Hollis Resnik), one of Jamison’s conquests, who must be kept distracted. The two provide a delightful subplot to the central story.

Duncan is earnest and saccharine as the naive heroine, who proves to have more than one side to her.

Foote is high powered, brash and deliciously over the top as she describes life in the panhandle of Oklahoma to the clueless Jamison, who finds himself engaged in more than just a little hanky panky with her. She has one of the better dance numbers, aided by some outrageously costumed cowboys.

There are no songs in this show which are memorable, but a few, like “Dirty Rotten Number,” a duet for Freddy and Jamison, and Jamison’s “Love Sneaks in” hit high marks.

This is a new musical which has the feel of a classic musical with modern elements to it. It is at times raunchy, the dialogue is rapid-fire and the jokes come one on top of the other. The two heroes are lovable scalawags, so we forgive many of their antics.

While this show may never go down in theatrical history as one of the greats, it is nevertheless a fun evening and worth checking out.

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