|I have decided to give myself exactly one hour to write this review. Unfortunately, that’s all this show deserves. I am already down 2 ½ hours from attending the show last night. I can’t get any of those hours back, folks.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the Musical is based on the 1988 film by the same name (and the 1963 film, “Bedtime Story,” before). The musical centers around two con men in the French Riviera. One is the older, dapper and sophisticated Lawrence Jameson (played by Chip Phillips) who wines and dines the wealthy ladies while charming them out of their money. The other is the younger and scrappier two-bit crook, Freddy Benson (played by Matt Wolpe) who uses a sob story about his fictional grandmother to swindle some cash from sympathetic and gullible women. After these two very different con men meet, they decide the town is not big enough for the both of them. To settle who will stay and who will go, they agree that the first one to extract $50,000 from the “soap queen” Christine Colgate (played by Kelly Lohman) would win the right to stay in town. The other would go. Of course all the shenanigans you would hope for in a light hearted musical, ensues.
Ok, the opening few sentences were a bit harsh, but there are a lot of things going for this show… and yet, somehow, the final result is simply not good! It’s frustrating when that happens. Let’s be positive for a moment. There is no doubt in my mind that the cast has talent and they showed it at moments. Oops, positive. The book (Jeffrey Lane) was delightful, as far as I can tell. I am not delivering on my positive spin. So, I guess I will just get real.
I believe, as a whole, this musical is pretty good. It was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and I think deservedly so. The book is loaded with jokes, bordering on crude in moments (which isn’t a problem for me), and the music is clever and catchy (David Yazbek). The single biggest disaster for this Interact Theatre Company production is the joke failure rate being waaaay too high. I knew when I was supposed to laugh, but only actually managed a chuckle about a quarter of those times.
The cast was full of double threats, which meant that the very fine choreography (by Tracy Powell) was wasted on actors/singers, and on the chorus as a whole, who couldn’t pull it off. The individual voices were quite lovely. I think the tiny 99-seat space was detrimental to the overall delivery, as the voices in ensemble numbers didn’t have a chance to blend. I will stand by the musical theatre saying that a production is only as good as its chorus. I found this chorus strange. I love a diverse chorus and this one was… but they fell short. The chorus was comprised of understudies for the leads, which I believe to be the culprit. Cast a good chorus and have separate understudies if necessary. The chorus of a musical is deceivingly important, and sadly this one as a whole didn’t succeed.
I wish I could see the award winning director, Richard Israel, restage this show in a bigger venue. I value an intimate theatre experience, but I think the staging requirements for this particular show may require a bigger space… perhaps the 75% joke failure rate would drop with more physical staging space to work with.
I reiterate that generally, I enjoyed the performances of the leads and several of the secondary characters. A few more performances deserving a mention are Susan Hull as Muriel Eubanks and Tracy Powell as Jolene Oakes, in addition to “the three” mentioned above.
The set was pretty clever (Dove Huntley and Rob Corn) and the costumes (Megan Evers) were outstanding. Sounds a bit silly to say, in conclusion, but it’s true. It didn’t go unnoticed.
Interact Theatre Company is a respectable group of theatre professionals. They deserve support and love, and serious respect for 20 years of theatre… but know there will be disappointment in this particular production. You can’t win them all… and the show must go on.
The anonymous woman sitting behind me may have best said it when she said, “This is actually a good show. It’s just hard to tell from this production.”
NoHo Arts Center,
11136 Magnolia Blvd. (at Lankershim)
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 3pm.
Tickets are $30.00 for general admission tickets; $20.00 for Seniors; $15.00 for Students
Through Sunday, March 21