I put off going to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for ages because I was waiting for discounts. Eventually I gave in, bought an Upper Circle ticket and hoped to be upgraded – which, luckily, I was. Perhaps this happy circumstance put me in a good mood, but at any rate I genuinely enjoyed the show.
This musical is relatively new – it is based on a 1988 film, and it’s only been on Broadway for a decade or so – but it has the feel of a classic, with a distinct 1930s Noel Coward-esqe atmosphere, assisted by the Art Deco style of the Savoy auditorium. The French Riviera setting reinforces this atmosphere, but it does mean that the modern references in the script, for instance, to Barack Obama, feel out of place.
With a book by Jeffrey Lane, Scoundrels is the story of Lawrence Jameson, a con-man who makes a living by tricking wealthy women out of their savings. He is played by Robert Lindsay, an actor I only know of because of the BBC comedy My Family, and I was very impressed with him in the role. Lindsay can sing – not brilliantly, but well enough for his part – and his character is charming and, as the show goes on, multi-dimensional.
Lawrence’s domination of the Riviera is threatened by young upstart Freddy Benson, played by Rufus Hound. Sadly I really disliked his character, who is coarse and unpleasant; unlike his rival, he appears to have no redeeming features whatsoever. It’s probably unfair to blame Hound for this, as his portrayal is probably quite in-keeping with his character, but I didn’t take to him at all.
Though at first Lawrence agrees to take Freddy under his wing and teach him some tricks of the trade,the pair end up fighting over a new arrival, a beautiful young innocent who has come to the Riviera after winning a competition and who is charming and entirely gullible. Katherine Kingsley is brilliant in the role, with by far the best singing voice of the cast, and a genuine star quality. Her acting ability is also unquestionable, as evidenced in the last scene of the show in particular.
Further entertainment is provided by the sub-plot involving a Surrey widow (Samantha Bond) and the French chief of police (John Marquez), who get together and fall in love. Not to mention the brilliant Lizzy Connolly, who nearly steals the whole show with her “Oklahoma!” parody, “Oklahoma?”.
David Yazbek’s score is memorable and fits well with the tone of the show. The closing song is a particular highlight, as is the aforementioned “Oklahoma?”, but all of the songs are lyrically witty, and the tunes range from Cole Porter-esque love songs to comedic gems.
This is that rare thing, a new musical with a powerful score and a strong storyline, with a superb twist at the end. I’m glad I finally gave in and bought a ticket – it was well worth it.