Many will be familiar with the 1988 MGM film ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,’ directed by Frank Oz and starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine. The comedic premise follows two culturally opposed men as they compete to con a wealthy heiress out of $50,000. This 2004 musical adaptation follows much the same story with the added bonus of a witty musical score and live audience reaction, arguably comparable to that of The Producers.
Scattered with naughty innuendo and puns, the high-paced, quirky script demands a dynamic and theatrically skilled cast and crew to bring it to life; a task Milton Musical Society have undertaken with gusto. Director Jonathan Shiner has stayed faithful to the glamorous French Riviera setting, full of glamour, glitz and cheeky French maids (of the film) with help from a projector, enabling the flawless creation of lavish backdrops and speedy scene changes. Not that the lead cast need much help to shine…
In the role of loveable rogue Freddy Benson, Rob Arrowsmith steals the show, demonstrating his incredible proficiency of ‘comic character’ acting. Facial expressions and mannerisms are fine-tuned down to the smallest grimace or twitch. I loved ‘Great Big Stuff,’ demonstrating how comfortable this actor is on stage, the song enhanced by a talented and well-staged ensemble. The contrast with high-society scoundrel Lawrence Jameson (Martin Mansfield) greatly aids Rob Arrowsmith’s unique characterisation. Martin Mansfield is able to show an emotional depth to a character who should be fairly two-dimensional by nature, giving a slick and polished performance throughout.
The show comes into its own in act two if the audience guffaws are anything to go by. With the introduction of American soap queen Christine Colgate, the plot ramps up the hi-jinks and further hilarity ensues. In the role, Catherine Smith holds her own against the two male leads and displays a remarkable control of her higher singing register in ‘Love is My Legs.’
Supporting the trio, unlikely duo Mark Ward as corrupt French policeman Andre Thibault and Beverley Harris as wealthy American Muriel Eubanks give a brilliant performance when together; the chemistry between the actors is evident as they are tasked with some of the raunchier scenes. Similarly, seventeen-year-old Emma Hardy as southern American cowgirl Jolene Oakes displays fabulous dancing ability, leading the ensemble in ‘Oklahoma?’. For me, the highlight of the show was the brilliantly funny ‘All About Ruprecht’, performed by Emma Hardy alongside Rob Arrowsmith and Martin Mansfield.
Choreographer Kirsti Warne had her work cut out for her with a mix of ballroom and Latin routines littering the score, though the cast are comfortable and well-rehearsed throughout. Similarly, Musical Director Lee Marchant ensures the jazzy musical score shows off the performers well.
My only feedback concerns a slight bias of volume towards the band above the vocalists at the beginning of act one, the effect of which is sometimes worsened when one considers how many lines of dialogue are delivered in a foreign accent. Thus, the beginning few scenes did become slightly difficult to follow. However, this is forgotten about as the audience are soon swept up within a truly outrageous whirlwind of a show.
This is a great feel-good musical and, in the words of the opening song, Milton Musical Society are giving the audience what they want. If you’re looking for a bit of light hearted entertainment, you’ll be sure to find it this week at The Regent Centre. Further performances of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels every evening until 27 April at 7.30pm with a 2.30pm Saturday matinee.