views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
The Savoy Theatre
25th June 2014


Robert Lindsay as Lawrence Jameson

Photography provided by The Savoy Theatre

With established parts in popular television shows My Family and Hornblower, there's no denying Robert Lindsay has long won over the British public and is a familiar face to all. In Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, his charm offensive continues in the well-crafted role of Lawrence Jameson, a high end conman with an impeccable track record when it comes to convincing wealthy women to part with their cash.

Jeffrey Lane's book sees Lawrence take fellow scamster Freddie Benson (Rufus Hound) under his wing, but with two such strong personalities, it's not long before the apprentice and master end up battling for top dog. Throw in a few female characters, and it all starts to get quite complicated quite quickly. Most importantly, the cast have a lot of fun with the chaos that ensues in songs like All About Ruprecht and the penultimate Dirty Rotten Number.

We are instantly taken in by Lindsay's rowdy, cavalier trickster whose suaveness is telling of the skill to which he applies his well-practised trade. Although at first Lindsay's singing is reminiscent of Rex Harrison's, we get some excellent notes out of him in numbers like The More We Dance. Countering this elegant smoothness is Hound's full-frontal Freddie. This raucous scoundrel - it took me far too long to use this word - is the epitomal loveable rogue. Together they make a thoroughly beguiling duo. Without giving too much away about the plot's twists and turns, we are taken through some hilarious seductions (Love is my Legs) and backfires (Rüffhousin' mit Shüfhausen).

Alongside our rascally heroes, we see a wonderfully endearing supporting cast in Samantha Bond's entreating Muriel Eubanks and John Marquez's slick Andre Thibault. This section of the cast add an unexpected gravitas to the frivolity of the other proceedings. Bond in particular shows striking form in dancing, singing, acting and her well-studied comic timing - a stage legend if ever we saw one. Bond and Marquez are simply enchanting in their scenes together.

Rufus Hound as Freddy Benson, along with the ensemble

Photography provided by The Savoy Theatre

However, the other two main females are less consistent, perhaps in contrast to the wealth of experience in the aforementioned performers, it's more difficult for them to find their feet. It's not clear whether it's the vocals or the tech to blame, but whatever the reason, it's not always easy to make out the lyrics. This is a shame as there is obviously raw talent in both Katherine Kingsley's Christine Colgate and Lizzy Connolly's Jolene Oakes.

Despite the fairly shallow nature of Christine and Jolene, we nevertheless relate quickly to them. The blinding speed at which all the ladies in the production seem to lust after Lawrence pushes against that somewhat - Lindsay is after all 12 years older than the oldest member member of the cast! - but this is no less believable than Joanna Riding playing against Michael Xavier in The Pajama Game. With the right actors and chemistry, an age gap soon falls away.

Director Jerry Mitchell brazenly rattles the fourth wall repeatedly, a cleverly shrewd way of maintaining the comedy's momentum without resorting to gaffs. The one-liners lack unpredictability but are deliciously dry and together with an extensive props department - oh, so many hats! - keep the audience fully engaged.

With some excellent songs penned by David Yazbek, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a very good comic musical, stylishly executed by the whole company. It's thankfully not as schmaltzy or cheesy as it could be, rather it's warm, entertaining and save for the odd slip in vocals, a thoroughly slick production.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opened on 10th March 2014 at the Savoy Theatre and is currently booking until 7th March 2015.

Nearest tube station: Charing Cross (Bakerloo, Northern)

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