Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Savoy Theatre, London)

Into the lives of world-weary reviewers from time to time come along shows which demand nothing more than simply to be enjoyed.

Based on the 1988 film of the same name, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels oozes a certain charm, elegance, and stylish wit. The songs aren’t especially memorable once you’ve left the theatre, however they are well staged and cleverly and lovingly celebrate a range of musical styles, and the performances are perfect with the whole having great entertainment value.

The Michael Caine/Steve Martin movie was well-received but never really screamed out to be turned into a stage play, let alone a bright and breezy musical in the same way that, say, Mel Brooks’ The Producers did.

Directed by Jerry Mitchell, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Jeffrey Lane, the show has mysteriously taken a long time to reach the West End since opening on Broadway back in 2005. The excellence of this current production deepens the mystery, as its laugh out loud comedy moments, skilled and lively cast, and superb production values only underline its strength and show why the screen to stage transfer was a must.

Set on the French Riviera, the story follows the fortunes of suave and sophisticated conman Lawrence Jameson, who finds his patch muddied by a slobbish rival. The dastardly duo go head to head in trying to fleece an American soap heiress with outrageous and hilarious chaos ensuing.

It is nothing short of a joy that Robert Lindsay has been tempted back into musical theatre to play Lawrence, displaying not only the right shade of oily charisma into his charming cheat, but reminding us of his versatility, the true art of comic timing and slick ease in the performance of the songs.

Samantha Bond injects real glamorous grace to her role as Muriel, the ageing looking-for-love divorcee, who falls for Lawrence in his convincing persona as a cavalier Prince Charming. She may not have the strongest singing voice, but is sweet and spirited. There’s a fantastic comic turn too from Lizzy Connolly as Jolene, a previously duped deep-fried Southern state nightmare.

The understudies were all in top form on the night I saw the show: Andy Conaghan as small-time grifter Freddy had a pleasing chemistry with Lindsay, more than holding his own with a cheery and  coarse cheekiness; Alice Fearn had a soaring singing voice and a beautifully disarming innocence as the Midwestern millionairess mark Christine, disguising her feminine wiles; and Darren Bennett partnered Samantha Bond well in their engaging romantic subplot as the French police chief Andre.

This is definitely a sparkling show to savour at the Savoy – only time will tell if it’s savvy enough to have staying power.

 

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