If you’re currently in London, there are only two days left for the run of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at London’s West End. I highly recommend that you try to see this wonderful and riveting inaugural production from Jerry Mitchell Productions. The hilarious musical stars Robert Lindsay (“My Family,” “Me and My Girl”) as Lawrence Jameson and Alex Gaumond (“Legally Blond”) as Freddy Benson, two con artists out to swindle riches from unsuspecting women in the French Riviera. Also in the cast are Katherine Kingsley (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), Bonnie Langford (“Chicago”), and Ben Fox (“The Commitments”). Lizzy Connolly make a stellar debut West End performance as Jolene Oakes (“WAG the Musical”).
Many of you are probably familiar with the film of the same name, which starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin. The plot here generally follows a similar track. Lawrence is seasoned in the game, but he takes on American Freddy Benson as a pupil. The pair sets up a wager to see who can obtain $50,000 from Christine Colgate (Katherine Kingsley), “the American soap queen.” The loser has to leave town. A high stakes competition ensues, but not without its share of complications and antics on both sides.
Fans of the film version may feel a little put out that there isn’t a rendition of the memorable “Putting on the Ritz” sequence, but long before the end of the musical, it’s not even a nagging thought at the back of your mind. The energetic musical numbers do much to enliven things and keep the audience either constantly chuckling or roaring with laughter. Particularly strong songs include Lindsay’s “Give Them What They Want” (with a fun series of hat changes), Gaumond’s “Great Big Stuff,” and Connolly’s “Oklahoma” with Lindsay. An incredibly successful West End production would not be complete without stunning and glitzy sets that glide across and off stage as seamlessly as the actors, movements that enable the momentum of a scene to carry through to the next.
Robert Lindsay is known for a number of television roles, perhaps none more so than “My Family” as dentist Ben Harper. But he’s had RADA training and a lot of theatrical roles, including a Broadway run in “Me and My Girl.” It’s great to see him taking on the theatre again, because his onstage presence is quite arresting in the way that he shifts from comedic to serious moments and through various accents. He handles the choreography with the flair and style of a Fred Astaire. One gets the sense that he’s relishing the lines as Lawrence when he repeats the cliffhanger moment at the opening of Act II or when he compliments himself. It never comes off as over-the-top, but rather he endears himself to audience members, including those of you who find yourself way at the back of the house. What a treat it is for anyone to see this three time Olivier, Tony, and BAFTA award winner in action.
While you’re at the Savoy Theatre, make it a point to wait by the stage door on Savoy Way (off of Carting Lane) for a chance to say hello to the cast and maybe even get an autograph. If you miss the opportunity to check out this musical by its closing on March 7th, don’t panic just yet. There will be a bit of a break until May 2015, when the show commences a UK tour.