The Theatreguide.London Review
Savoy Theatre 2014 - 2015
This is a good old-fashioned Broadway musical, the sort we thought they didn't make any more – big and brassy, funny, tune-filled and lovely to look at, with sparkling choreography, clever lyrics and real star performances.
It's the sort of thing Broadway turned out routinely during the Golden Age of roughly 1930-1960, and the fact that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is such a special delight is evidence of how much things have changed since then.
The musical – book by Jeffrey Lane, songs by David Yazbek – generally follows the plot of the comic 1988 film on which it is based. In the south of France two conmen – one suave, one coarse – compete for the affections and fortune of the same girl, with things naturally not turning out exactly as either expected.
Lane has added a subplot as one of the suave scoundrel's former victims goes on to a happier romance, and some other filagree around the edges, but the basic fun lies in the competition and the differing styles with which the two go about their dastardly work.
Ever since musicals have had to run for decades to make money, they've tended not to be written as star vehicles, and we've generally been deprived of the inestimable pleasure of watching a real star at work.
Not least of Dirty Rotten Scoundrel's attractions is the way Robert Lindsay as the cultivated conman strides a stage that is his by right, instantly seizing and holding our attention with seemingly effortless ease and authority. He can act and sing and dance and tell jokes, but most of all he exudes stardom, and we just put ourselves in his hands and relax.
As his rougher-hewn competitor Rufus Hound gives just as skilled a comic performance, and there is nothing critical to say about him except that you can see him working at it and somehow know that another actor of comparable skill could be just as good.
Katherine Kingsley is charming as the not-quite-as-naive target of their plotting, but it is Samantha Bond as the previous victim who has the same star quality as Robert Lindsay, bringing that ineffable something-more to the table.
David Yazbek's songs range from pastiche – a mock country number, a mock Cuban number – through quite lovely ballads to big comic songs.
Rufus Hound gets to stop the show with 'Great Big Stuff', a patter song cataloguing all the goodies his insatiable appetite wants to con the world out of, 'Love Sneaks In' is the sort of rueful romantic song Andrew Lloyd Webber doesn't write any more, and any lyricist who finds a comically legitimate way to rhyme Oklahoma and melanoma is OK with me.
Director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell stages a couple of lovely Fred-and-Ginger style dance duets along with stage-filling production numbers.
You might occasionally get the feeling that Robert Lindsay and Samantha Bond are better than the material they're working with, but only occasionally. If not quite the very best of Broadway – it's not My Fair Lady or West Side Story or … – it will do just fine for now.
Review - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - Savoy Theatre 2014
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