The Candlelight Theatre’s rollicking production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is wonderfully salacious dinner theater fare that will have you rolling in the aisles.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels centers on two disparate con men who eventually learn that turnabout is fair play, even in the world of crime. The 2005 Broadway musical, based on the 1988 film of the same name, doesn’t skimp on the laughs, and Director Peter Reynolds keeps the plot moving forward at a nice clip. The book by Jeffrey Lane includes clever wordplay, big physical comedy, and even makes the audience root for the unscrupulous titular duo. David Yazbeck’s lyrics and musical score are lively plus advance the story, characters, and (substantial) comedy.
The action is set on the French Riviera, where a debonair English con man Lawrence Jameson (Larry Lees) seduces wealthy women and persuades them to part with their cash. His primary ruse is that he is a disinherited and/or deposed foreign prince whose stately bearing makes his female marks swoon. Lawrence also has the local police chief Andre Thibault (Tim Moudy) in his pocket. Lawrence, Andre, and the ensemble unite in song for the splendid opening number Give Them What They Want.
All is going very well until a rival con man arrives in town and threatens Lawrence’s extremely lucrative game. Freddy Benson (Tristan Horan) is a crass American grifter who is satisfied with small petty scams which keep him fed and moving freely from town to town. However, once Freddy sees Lawrence in action, he wants to up his game and have it all. His song Great Big Stuff is charmingly greedy and is delightfully reprised in Act Two. Lawrence begrudgingly takes Freddy under his wing and the two quickly become a potent team.
Most of the pleasure of the show lies in the relationship between Freddy and Lawrence. Thankfully, there is exothermic onstage chemistry between Lees’ suave swindler and Horan’s oafish interloper. Both actors employ subtle nuance and grand gestures effectively. Basically, you laugh at the big and the small stuff. They’re both excellent actors and vocalists who shine at every turn in the script.
When one of Lawrence’s targets becomes possessive and insists marriage is imminent, the two deceitful men hatch a devious escape plan. Optimistic Jolene Oakes (Allison Boyle) is thrilled to be taking her new royal beau back with her to the United States. She belts out Oklahoma? — a toe-tapping, thigh-slapping musical number that showcases Boyle’s substantial vocal, dance and comedic talents. It seems like nothing can deter Jolene from marrying her Prince Charming…until his genetically inferior brother Ruprecht is introduced.
In possibly the funniest song in the show, the prince (Lawrence) presents Ruprecht (Freddy) and all his considerable faults. Understandably, Jolene is overwhelmed and skips town without her fiancé, much to the relief of Lawrence.
Colleen Kreisel has beautifully choreographed the show and Oklahoma? stands out for its inventiveness and energy. Kreisel has many different tempos and scenarios to navigate throughout this production and nails each dance number. Kudos to her vision and the execution of her vision by the cast!
The ensemble is filled with hotel maids, porters, servants, vacationers and passers-by. Of course, when the music plays, these background players come to the forefront. Chris Fitting, Nate Golden, Achilles Inverso, Sophie Jones, Kari Lochstoer, Salvatore Mirando, Faith Sacher, Amanda Shaffern, Audrey Simmons, Ali Urusow and Michael Vandie should be commended for their efforts acting, singing, dancing and moving set pieces.
This is a good time to mention the quality of the modular set. Scenic Designer Jeff Reim has created a clever multi-tiered stage with movable staircases, balconies, doors, cabinets and seating. There is a lot going on, but the settings are constantly changing with the action. The costumes by Tara Bowers convey a sense of timelessness. These onstage crimes could happen in any era.
In a secondary story, policeman Andre has begun an affair with one of Lawrence’s cast-off lovers Muriel Eubanks (Connie Pelesh). The two decide they don’t have much satisfaction being alone, so they charge into a hot romance hoping to find substance in their lives.
Meanwhile, a rivalry grows between the two con men and a wager is proffered: The first to get $50,000 out of a (random) woman wins. The loser must leave town.
Immediately after making the deal “The American Soap Queen” arrives in the form of Christine Colgate (Morgan Sichler). Lawrence makes every effort to get close to Christine and take her money, but he realizes that she is not as rich as they thought. He tells Freddy that he thinks they should call off the bet. Freddy reluctantly agrees, but modifies the stakes to his bedding the sweet Midwestern beauty.
Without giving away the conclusion of the second act — or the alternate personalities of the competing con men — Freddy and Lawrence comically battle to win the bet. Love is My Legs is a highlight that involves great physical comedy by Horan, sincere joy by Sichler and even a gospel choir singing hallelujah to the heavens. The audience didn’t want the show to end, but it did so with aplomb.
It turned out that everyone in the audience fell in love with a con artist on Opening Night. Thankfully, we weren’t the ones being duped by this standout production. Hop in your “pimped-out hatchback” and drive to Arden for a magnificent night out on the Riviera with some lovable scoundrels.
Last year’s upgrades to the Candlelight Theatre have improved the technical and culinary capabilities of the legendary local facility. The sound quality of the music and vocals was impressive and the full unlimited buffet had many delicious offerings.
The venue also hosts monthly trivia and comedy nights. Operations Manager Dan Healy is emcee for Monday night Quizzo, which features prizes and the Wildwich Food Truck & Café. The Candlelight Comedy Club invites you to the theater for an evening of food, drinks and laughs. Local, regional and national comics come to entertain on a fairly regular monthly basis. The next Quizzo ($5 cover) is Monday, February 19 and the Comedy Club ($30 cover) is open on Thursday, January 25.
This production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels runs through February 25. Tickets are $63 per person or $33 for children ages 4 to 12. Warning: There is bawdy language and plenty of sexual innuendo which may not be suitable for younger audiences. While most show are on weekends, there are some mid-week matinee performances.
A perfect way to shed the winter blues, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels will leave a smile on your face and, perhaps, a bit of larceny in your heart.