The latest Warner Theatre musical is certainly dirty and chock-full of scoundrels, but it is by no means rotten.
Directed and choreographed by Warner regular Sheila Waters Fucci, it is no surprise that dance is a key element in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It’s only appropriate because the two conmen in the show — Lawrence Jameson (Jonathan Jacobson) and Freddy Benson (Randy Ronco) — and French sidekick/Chief of Police Andre Thibault (Eric Lindblom) put on a lot of song and dance into wooing women and swindling them of their fortune and jewels at Beaumont-sur-Mer in the French riviera.
The play is based on the movie by the same title starring Michael Caine as Lawrence, Steve Martin as Freddy, and New London native Glenne Headly as Janet Colgate (Christine Colgate in the musical, played by Alyssa Fontana Bunel in the Warner production), the main woman Lawrence and Freddy compete to con.
Waters Fucci choreographed many elegant and playful dance numbers featuring the guests, hotel maids and leads. Some of the ensemble dancers were more experienced and others, but that’s not unusual, and each one put character and enthusiasm into their roles that made the ballroom dance sequences delightful.
It was a nice surprise to see producer Sharon Wilcox grace the stage again with the first line of the show, a sleek, red wig, and some solos after more than 20 years since her last time in a Warner main stage production.
Most charming was Becky Sawicki as the young, wealthy Southern blonde belle Jolene Oakes, who nearly cons Lawrence into marrying into her while he seeks her money in efforts to distract her with romance. Her Southern accent gave her character spunk and pizzaz and her pep made for a lively dance number with lifts that lands her sitting on the shoulder of her dance partner.
The show required a lot of accents, including Lindblom’s and ensemble member L. Nagle’s French accents.
Mary J. Johnson was strongest as Muriel Eubanks when she had to bring out her character’s passion in love scenes with Lindblom’s Andre.
Bunel has the most powerful performance toward the end with more edge to her voice and confidence in her character.
Ronco excelled at comedy in his role as Freddy, fake brother Ruprecht and a soldier with psychosomatic paralysis from the waist down from a Kevin Bacon-like dance incident.
The show almost pokes fun at the elements of musical theater in a loving way, from Jacobson’s Lawrence snapping his fingers for the perfect lighting to Johnson’s line “Is the balcony moving, while the balcony is dragged off stage for a scene change.
The stage crew was sometimes distracting to the storyline because of all the times they were on stage with set changes during the scenes. Ronco designed the set and his wife worked back stage.
There was one microphone issue during Saturday’s show and the band sometimes overpowered the singers, but otherwise the production was stunning and seemingly professional, like most Warner productions.
The slower songs dragged down the plot a little, but dance sequences and more dynamic numbers like “Great Big Stuff,””All About Ruprecht” and, of course, “Dirty Rotten” brought up the pace.
There’s a twist at the end that is surprising if you haven’t seen the movie. Just you wait!
The show continues next Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Call the box office or go to the Warner Theatre website for more information.