By Dale King
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the 2004 comedy musical based on the 1988 film of the same name that featured Michael Caine and Steve Martin as a couple of swindlers trolling the Riviera looking to fleece rich women, has a wonderful musical score. But for the sake of the pun, the creators of the show should have included one more tune – one called “Send in the Cons.”
Yes, it’s true. The two lead male characters in this utterly farcical comedy playing at the Broward Stage Door Theatre in Lauderhill may not be the only cons in the game. Right now, we’re sworn to secrecy, but keep your eyes open – and your comic spirit at the ready.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is Stage Door’s second show since moving to the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center. The first production, La Cage aux Folles, earned some laudable reviews during its run. Folks who attended both performances will notice how the much larger stage gives actors plenty more room to move than the old Stage Door digs in Margate.
This is particularly important for DRS, which features lots of singing and dancing by a talented ensemble stepping up as waiters, servants, cowboys and cowgirls, tourists, nuns, bellboys, maids, patrons, sailors, a choir and diverse travelers. Dance numbers were choreographed by an excellent hoofer, Danny Durr, and they tend to stretch the length of the stage.
Dirty Rotten also one-ups La Cage because it features a live, four-piece band headed by David Nagy on piano, Brian Sayre on drums, Martha Spangler on bass and Andrea Gilbert on woodwinds.
The award-winning musical follows the exploits of sophisticated Lawrence Jameson (Michael Cartwright), who makes his lavish living by talking rich ladies out of their money, and Freddy Benson (Matt Kurzyniec), whose game is the same, but he hasn’t yet embraced Jameson’s knack. He humbly swindles women by touching their compassion with fabricated stories about his grandmother’s failing health.
After meeting on a train, they attempt to work together, only to find that their small town isn’t big enough for the two of them. Both agree on a settlement – the first one to extract $50,000 from their mutual target, young heiress Christine Colgate (Sabrina Lynn Gore), wins, and the other must leave town. Jameson and Benson are opposites who just don’t seem to attract. Elegant and suave Jameson beats out bumbling Benson nearly every time.
The entertaining musical features a delightfully jazzy score nominated for 11 Tony Awards.The book is by Jeffrey Lane and the music is by David Yazbek (The Full Monty, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and this year’s Tony Award winner for Best Musical, The Band’s Visit). While the songs are not well known in the outside world, they are punchy, upbeat and likeable.
The song “Give Them What They Want,” sung by Jameson, his sidekick, Andre (Michael Kruetz) and the ensemble, pretty much sets a theme. Freddy leads the ensemble with “Great Big Stuff” and a song called “Oklahoma?” follows. (Not THAT “Oklahoma.”)
Christine uses her full-on voice to introduce herself with the song, “Here I Am.” She and Freddy – faking an injury and confined to a wheelchair – join forces with “Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True.”
Act I ends with the arrival of Dr. Shuffhausen (also portrayed by Cartwright) and everyone sings “The Miracle.” The German “doctor” (so the cast believes) has come to town to fix Freddy up. Supposedly, he’s the only doctor who can do it. But it’s all part of a ruse that creates friction between the two cons.
The second act features a lovable song, “Ruffhousin’ mit Shuffhausen,” sung by the lead actors. Both guys seem to be developing a love interest for Christine at this point, but, frankly, she’s got other interests in mind. Soon, a question about her financial standing threatens to mess up the Jameson-Benson agreement.
Director Clayton Phillips gives the show high marks: “‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ is a perfect example of an escapist piece of musical theater,” he says. “It does not take itself too seriously. The show is full of twists and turns and is a real comedy from start to finish.”
The cast scores a major success in this entry. Cartwright, tall and refined, is chic as Jameson. He has honed his deep, powerful voice in many previous shows – lots of them at Lake Worth Playhouse – and he does an excellent job here, too.
Kurzyniec is a newcomer to Stage Door, but has appeared in many roles – including Leo Bloom in The Producers, a show very much like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He brings a well-trained voice to this venue.
Ditto for Gore, whose vocals are on the money, as is her delightful stage presence and acting skills. Kreutz needs no prompting in the song department. A vocal coach, he has taught students who’ve gone on to perform on Broadway and in national tours.
Also in the cast are Aaron Bower, Austin Carrol, Marty Craft, Alexandra Nicole Garcia, Sebastian Goldberg, Chris Hendricks, Cat Pagano, Vincent Pelligrino, Sarah Rose, Laura Titus and Alexandra Van Hasselt.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels plays through Nov. 4 at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, 3800 NW 11th Place, Lauderhill. Tickets are $48 and may be purchased by calling the box office at 954-344-7765 or online at www.stagedoorfl.org or on the LPAC website at lpacfl.com.