Based on the 1988 film of the same name starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine (which itself was based on an earlier film called Bedtime Stories with Marlon Brando and David Niven...notta lotta people know that) Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the tale of two con artists who both ‘make a living’ by ripping off the rich. When one of them moves in on the other’s patch they make a bet to determine who gets to stay there, with the loser promising to leave town and never return...
That’s pretty much the plot but there are several twists and turns that you won’t be expecting unless you’ve seen the movie/s giving this musical (now in its eleventh year) a little extra ‘je ne sais quoi’. The big opening number Give Them What They Want sums up what Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ mission appears to be. There’s comedy, glamour, romance and just a little sadism thrown in for good measure (keep an eye open for the whip scene...ouch), all taking place on a suitably snazzy and remarkably adaptable Art Deco set.
Given that he robs from the rich Michael Praed, perhaps best known for portraying Robin Hood, is ideal casting as the more sophisticated of the two cons, Lawrence.
Okay so he doesn’t go in for the whole giving to the poor stuff this time but a pad on the French Riviera is a heck of a lot more expensive than a hollowed out tree trunk in Sherwood Forest. Praed seems born to play this kind of role, effortlessly oozing suave sophistication.
What was perhaps more of a surprise was how good Noel Sullivan was as his younger, sassier rival Freddy. Revealing a real gift for comic timing and pulling off a Ruprecht routine that rivalled Martin’s in the movie (that takes some beating) he also blazed through his major musical number in Act 1, Great Big Stuff, like Shirley Bassey with balls and was eye wateringly great during the whip scene.
Completing the trio of male leads Mark Benton, as the corrupt police chief Andre, was a treat from start to fin, channelling a little René Artois from ‘allo ‘allo along the way and generating some of the biggest laughs of the night amongst audience and cast alike (you could see Praed edging close to corpsing on more than one occasion).
After his spell on Strictly he can pull off some mean moves too!
The ladies, Carley Stenson, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Phoebe Coupe, were all equally strong. Look out for Phoebe’s delightfully OTT Oklahoma, Christine’s wide eyed and innocent Here I Am and Geraldine’s gently charming duet with Benton Like Zis/ Like Zat.
Add a truly kick ass band buried beneath the stage somewhere (one of the best I’ve heard at The Alex) and a relentlessly energetic ensemble and you’ve got a something of an undiscovered gem of a musical comedy (this is its very first UK tour) that deserves its place right up there with firm favourites Spamelot and The Producers. In fact it’d be a dirty rotten shame to miss it...
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is on at The New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday May 16th 2015 before heading off on a nationwide tour. Tickets here!