Opposites attract, right? That’s the case even with con men in the delightfully tongue-in-cheek musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, now being staged at Weathervane Playhouse.
The show, which premiered on Broadway in 2005, follows refined con man Lawrence, who bilks filthy rich women out of their money in the French Riviera. Enter crass American con Freddy, who runs a small-time operation and asks Lawrence to take him on and teach him everything he knows.
Of course, this arrangement turns into a rivalry and the two decide the Riviera is too small for both of them to operate in. They make a deal that the first person to swindle $50,000 out of a woman gets to stay and the other has to go.
At the helm as Lawrence (a role originated on Broadway by former Akronite John Lithgow) is Patrick Dukeman, who played brilliantly funny narrator roles in both The Drowsy Chaperone and The Mystery of Edwin Drood in recent years at Weathervane. Dukeman is a gifted comedic actor, but singing is not his forte.
The actor so skillfully commands the stage, he almost pulls off the role regardless. But his vocal limitations are most glaringly apparent when he’s singing a duet with co-star Adam Vigneault, a beautiful singer as Freddy. As a result, the show’s final duet, Dirty Rotten Number, an exultation between Lawrence and Freddy on what fun their scamming competition has been, fizzles.
Directed by Jim Weaver, Weathervane’s 18-member cast stylishly draws us into the world of Beaumont-Sur-Mer, a seaside village on the French Riviera.
The hardworking ensemble of 12 is a sight to behold in their posh gowns and tuxedos and sleek wigs evoking the moneyed Riviera crowd. They are especially sassy and stylish in the pop-infused number Great Big Stuff, Freddy’s ode to what he’ll buy when he strikes it rich.
Costume designer Jasen Smith creates a striking black and white palette as the ensemble plays tourists, with the women wearing completely different wigs. Scenic designer Alan Scott Ferrall also has incorporated a picturesque photographic backdrop of the town’s harbor, seen from a handsome terrace.
Composer and lyricist David Yazbek, who also wrote The Full Monty, created a pop-infused score full of risqué humor and outrageous lyrics. This show is full of bawdy humor, sexual references and adult language.
Vigneault, in particular, gets some of the most delightfully juvenile humor as the uncouth American con. This humor reaches giddy heights as his Freddy sings the “love” duet Nothing is Too Wonderful to Be True with Amanda Davis’ Christine, she singing of sublime love and he inserting ridiculously mundane lyrics with a straight face.
Davis sings like a lark and seems as innocent as can be as the object of the two men’s scam.
This show becomes madcap as Freddy impersonates a paralyzed soldier in an effort to play on Christine’s sympathies and Lawrence tries to outwit him. This musical, based on the 1988 film, is full of high jinks in the competition between cons.
Book writer Jeffrey Lane and Yazbek play with the paralysis bit plenty, as Lawrence finds a way to torture the supposedly wheelchair-bound soldier. Later, real-life fiancés Vigneault and Davis are wonderfully cheesy in the spoof song Love is My Legs.
A big part of what makes this musical so funny is its witty self-referential humor. Nobody takes anyone or anything too seriously in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, including wealthy American Muriel and crooked chief of police Andre.
In a foolishly fun romantic subplot, Meg Hopp plays divorcee Muriel with a dissipated ennui and Daniel Colaner, who has a gorgeous operatic voice, puts his French accent in comical overdrive, sounding like Sebastian from The Little Mermaid.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels revels in delightfully bad taste. That’s brought to life with such irreverent spirit by the Weathervane cast, this musical is a must-see.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.