Pros: The glittery, glamorous cast brings incredibly energy to the stage.
Cons: Rather tasteless references to disability and the bottom-smacking sexism made me cringe.
Take a setting comprised of the glittering blue coast of the French Riviera, sprinkle a bit of sex and love in there, add a helping of catchy music and pour in a generous dollop of beautiful people, and there you have it: the classic musical, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It’s glamorous, witty and fun, and the energy that the starry cast brings to the stage is captivating.
The simple storyline sees Lawrence Jameson (Robert Lindsay) swindling his way into various gorgeous heiresses’ fortunes with the help of the French head of police. When fellow conman Freddy Benson (a suitably vulgar and cheeky Rufus Hound) threatens to compete for business with him, the suave and handsome Lawrence takes the younger man under his wing as a conning apprentice. Things start going wrong, however, when the two of them make a bet as to who can deceive the lovely and innocent American soap queen Christine Colgate (Katherine Kingsley).
Both Lindsay and Kingsley were brilliant – Lindsay brought his character to life with a lot of charm and cheek, and Kingsley only needed to open her mouth and sing to enchant the entire audience. Not only are they both great singers and actors but also fabulous comedians. I was absolutely bowled over by the energy that the cast demonstrated as they danced, pranced and wheeled themselves around the stage – the women in high heels – all looking as if they were having the time of their lives. My favourite aspects of the performance were the witty fun parts where the cast, still in character, would ask the conductor standing in front of his ensemble to help them out of a sticky situation or enquire whether they had missed a scene.
What grated a little were the tasteless references to disability, as when Freddy helps Lawrence out of a sudden engagement to a vulgar screeching girl from Oklahoma (during which the whole stage is suddenly transformed into the American South complete with dancing cowboys) by pretending to be his mentally disabled brother Ruprecht – it just seemed unnecessarily offensive. I also did not enjoy any of the overly silly female stereotyping. Yes, the men were silly as well, but they did have some more serious conversations and relationships between each other that made them real people.
That said, it was easy to forget everything else as the cast took us to the sparkling French coast, grandiose hotels and palm-lined beaches, and I left humming the tunes, sniggering at the jokes and wishing that downright swindling were really as easy, fun and morally acceptable as the trio make it out to be. It may have its flaws, but Dirty Rotten Scoundrels makes for a great night out.
Music and lyrics: David Yazbek
Book: Jeffrey Lane
Director: Jerry Mitchell
Booking Link: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dirty-rotten-scoundrels/savoy-theatre
Box Office: 0844 871 3046
Booking Until: 7 March 2015