Love (for Money) Conquers All in 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels'
By: Elise Hugus, June 15, 2012
DANIEL FONTNEAU/CCFTA - Glenn Wall, Jamie Lynne Stuart and Alex Valentine star in the anti-morality musical 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' at Cotuit Center for the Arts.
Those who have been used and abused by a former lover will find a panacea for the pain in the campy humor of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” In fact, anyone who has been tricked out of some cash or been lied to by a telemarketer will want to sing and dance right along with the cast.
Cheaters get cheated and suckers get what they want in this anti-morality tale, based on the 1988 movie by the same name.
Set in the French Riviera “then and now,” the plot centers around a rivalry between two con men who make a living as gigolos—of sorts. Lawrence Jameson (played by Glenn Wall of Monument Beach) is a smooth operator, cultured and suave with the ladies; his nemesis, Freddy Benson (Alex G. Valentine of North Dartmouth) appeals to his victims’ sense of decency with pitiful stories about his ailing grandmother.
If you go...
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sunday matinee at 2 PM through July 1
4404 Falmouth Road, Cotuit
Tickets are $22, $19 for seniors, $17 for members, and $15 for students.
Surprisingly, opposites attract in the con artist business: when Freddy discovers that Lawrence has been methodically seducing his way into the bank accounts of the continent’s female elite, he threatens to spill the beans unless Lawrence teaches him the tricks of the trade. Reluctantly, Lawrence takes him on, turning Freddy into an asset as Ruprecht, his mentally challenged brother, when he wants to scare his generous lady friends away.
Cape thespians come together
Directed by Laura Garner (of the Theater on the Bay and Wits End Arts), the musical version of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is somewhat of a departure from the well-known film.
With musical direction from Lynne Marshall of North Falmouth, the plot is largely contained in songs that explain the characters’ motivation—from the battle-of-the-sexes “Give Them What They Want” to the hilariously class-conscious “Great Big Stuff” and the culture-clashing, line-dancing, gun-toting “Oklahoma.”
David Yazbek’s lyrics give the play a modern twist, although the social norms seemingly haven’t evolved beyond the 1960s. Muriel Eubanks, a smitten heiress played by Bonnie Fairbanks, suggests taking a Xanax to “brighten up my mood” and Lawrence takes a dig at the Bush dynasty when singing about faulty royal chromosomes in “All About Ruprecht.”
Fans of Michael Caine will not be disappointed with Wall’s performance as Lawrence. Oozing confidence as he sings his way into his mistresses’ golden hearts, he is utterly convincing as a conscienceless ladies’ man.
Valentine, who last appeared in the Falmouth Theatre Guild’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” adds a happy-go-lucky dimension to Freddy’s character. He is less wily than he is opportunistic, but he need only sing a few bars to understand why he got the part: Valentine could easily make his next appearance on “American Idol.”
In her program bio, Fairbanks notes that her role as Muriel marks a return to the stage after a 15-year hiatus. We are all the luckier that she is back in the spotlight. Veterans of the Cape’s theater scene will remember Fairbanks in her many roles with Theater on the Bay, and newcomers will delight in her seemingly effortless vocal delivery, her subtle facial gestures and natural stage presence.
A Bermuda Triangle of love
Jamie Lynne Stuart of Hatchville makes her Cotuit Center debut as Christine Colgate, the presumed “Queen of Soap.” Bright-eyed and (seemingly) naïve when she arrives at Beaumont-sur-Mer, Stuart delivers a convincing gosh-and-golly routine in the song “Here I Am.” She thus thickens the plot, unwittingly becoming the target of Lawrence and Freddy’s competition: the first man to extract $50,000 from the Cincinnati heiress earns the right to the “territory.”
In the midst of this love triangle, romance forms between Lawrence’s sidekick, the corrupt Chief of Police Andre Thibault (played with gusto by Daniel Fontneau of Barnstable) and his dismissed mistress Muriel. An endearing duet “Like Zis/Like Zat” shows that love between two lonely people is possible, especially when humor and copious amounts of champagne are close at hand.
Despite their tough guy attitudes, Colgate’s virtue and unabashed generosity find a place in both Freddy and Lawrence’s hearts. Though the tables turn in more ways than one, everyone lives happily ever after in this dazzlingly corrupt society.
Sit back and enjoy the ride
The hard-of-hearing (and those who prefer not to concentrate too hard at the theater) will want to get a front-row seat to make sure they catch all the lines in the play. Although she shines on stage and sings with passion, Stuart’s low notes are almost inaudible—a technical difficulty that could be overcome by lowering the music or providing a wireless microphone.
Ably choreographed by Falmouth-based dancer Heather Shepley, the cast and ensemble dance a variety of ambitious numbers, from a swing dance to the tango. Many members both sing and dance, with a notable highlight in Elin Herch, who plays the Oklahoma oil-money floozy Jolene Oakes, one of Lawrence’s most corruptible conquests.
Although film buffs may be thrown for a loop by the theatrical version, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is an amusing glimpse into a world—and society—far removed from our own. It’s an age-old song and dance between men and women, rich and poor, corruption and morality, and we may as well just sit back and enjoy the ride.