If the current trend continues, I suppose there will come a day when every movie ever made has been adapted into a Broadway musical. One of the more recent and successful incarnations of movie-to-musical is “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” now playing at the Fox Theatre through April 8.
Taken from the 1988 con-artist comedy starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, the stage version relies heavily on the film’s well-plotted script and manages to deliver a lot of the same laughs. Where it stumbles, however, is musically and in the end, would have been much better served if it had been turned into a play – sans the ill-conceived musical numbers.
Our story takes place in a resort community in the south of France where big-time con artist Lawrence Jameson (Tom Hewitt) has eked out a very successful living using his charms to bilk obscene amounts of money from lonely, overly wealthy women. With the help of his associate Andre Thibault (Drew McVety), who also just so happens to be chief of police, Lawrence has settled into a comfortable routine.
That is until the arrival of Freddy Benson (D.B. Bonds) a small-time con man who threatens to expose Lawrence unless he takes him under his wing and promises to show Freddy all the tricks of the trade.
With Freddy being as uncouth as Lawrence is suave the pair are constantly at odds, although Freddy does prove useful when pretending to be Lawrence’s deranged brother, Ruprecht, to drive away marriage-seeking oil heiress Jolene Oakes (Paige Pardy). The unnecessarily over-the-top performance by Pardy was the low point of the show. Whenever she was on stage I felt like I was watching “Annie Get Your Gun” on crack.
But Freddy and Lawrence’s alliance doesn’t last long and the two make a bet to be the first to extract $50,000 from the apparently wealthy and ditsy Christine Colgate (Laura Marie Duncan), with the loser of the bet having to leave town. Hijinks ensue.
In spite of being uneven throughout there is still a lot to like about “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” Hewitt really carries the show and spends as much time charming the audience as he does his female conquests.
There are also excellent supporting turns from McVety and Holly Resnik who play Muriel Eubanks, one of Lawrence’s earlier conquests who becomes an unlikely love interest for Andre. The two share some very funny scenes and at times Resnik seems to be deftly channeling Madeline Kahn.
Duncan turns in a fine performance as Christine and I think she has an excellent singing voice, although I can’t be sure because none of the songs really gave her an opportunity to showcase it.
I mentioned before that the songs are a problem in that they are simply not very good. Aside from the “Dirty Rotten Number” finale, they are pretty forgettable and uninspired. They also can’t decide if they want to be a parody of musicals, as are the numbers “Love Is My Legs” and “Oklahoma?” or if they want to play it bland and straight as in “Love Sneaks In.” Proceedings certainly weren’t helped by some uncharacteristic sound problems that were I hope were corrected after opening night.
But even though the music falls a little flat, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” still delivers the laughs. It is also comparatively racy at times, so be sure to check any delicate sensibilities at the door.
It may not be perfect, but it is undeniable that “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is entertaining and you shouldn’t feel conned out of the price of your ticket when you leave the theater.
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through April 8. For tickets call MetroTix at (314)-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.