by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Last month the Alhambra presented on its stage something for the kids, with the very successful and well received Willy Wonka. This month and through September 18, a delightful treat for the adults is on stage, with the North Florida premier of Jeffery Lane and David Yazbek’s hilarious Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Based on the 1988 comedy film of the same name starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, it is the story of two con men living and working on the French Riviera.
The well dressed, suave, sophisticated older fraudster is Lawrence Jameson, excellently played by Alhambra artistic director Tod Booth, in his first stage appearance in several years. The other con man is upstart Freddy Benson, portrayed by Alhambra newcomer Michael Ursua, a rubber legged very physical comedian with a great voice. Both these guys make their living preying on well-to-do (and always good looking) women who come to the Rivera for adventure and possible romance.
These two guileful predators of gullible lovely ladies decide that the French Rivera is not big enough for both of them and so they agree to a bet to decide who gets the territory. The winner will be the first to swindle $50,000 from Christine Colgate (the always fabulous Kelly Atkins), an American heiress known as the Soap Queen of Cincinnati; the loser will depart to practice his craft elsewhere.
Jameson has other misadventures enroute to the big showdown. He cons a gorgeous and rich cowgirl from Oklahoma, Jolene (played with zest by Krita Severeid), but finds she has immediate marriage on her mind and has to enlist the aid of Freddy to escape her clutches. Freddy impersonates Jameson’s mentally deranged brother and his hilarious antics have her hightailing it back to the wide open spaces.
An interesting subplot involves the Chief of Police, Andre (Tony Dietterick) an accomplice of Jameson, and his encounter with a Nebraska widow, Muriel (Suzi Teitelman), who is being swindled by Jameson but winds up in a romance with Andre.
There are several strange plot twists as the two con artists try to wrest the $50,000 from the heiress and that is part of the fun.
An outstanding ensemble fills out the cast, with performers who dance, sing, and move in and out of roles at a dizzying pace, appearing as characters like waiters, maids, tourists, cowboys and sailors. The women include Alhambra veterans Kirsten Carmody and Peg Paschal, along with Sara Sexton, Cara Leigh Ratliff and Tracy Davis; the men include J. Scott Browning, Casey Hicks, Barry Kramer, Dominic Windsor and James Washburn.
You won’t find the usual listing for the scenes, there are just too many, probably twenty or more, but they are done smoothly and quickly. Also absent is a listing of the songs in this 2005 Broadway musical that was awarded 11 Tony nominations including Best Musical. None of the musical numbers became a hit but they all have very clever lyrics and move the plot along nicely. You won’t walk out singing such songs as Love Is My Legs, Like Zis/LikeZat and Chimp in a Suit just to mention a few of the many songs, but will find them very funny.
Tod Booth usually directs all the shows at the Alhambra but since he is playing the leading role, his wife Lisa Valdini, well known Alhambra performer, co-directed this production. Shain Stroff made his debut as Choreographer here, and his dance creations make good use of the excellent talent as well as the expanded Alhambra stage.
The set design by Dave Dionne portrayed a spacious hotel balcony overlooking a beautiful Mediterranean seaside village in the opening scene, with set pieces added as the play progressed to change to settings that included among others, Jameson’s luxurious apartment, a casino interior, a train interior, and an intimate café.
The Costume Crew’s costume design was creative and playful, with many formal ball gowns and tuxedos, interesting black and white uniforms for the maids, an attention-getting western dress, and upscale tourist wear.
Dinner theatres tend to do a lot of revivals of musicals since the public just seems to love the classics, but it is refreshing to have a brand new musical in this area on the Alhambra stage, especially one that is as well done and as humorous. It is a bit more bawdy that most shows, mostly in the physical humor. There are also a number of double entendres, but what the heck, this is the French Riviera and we expect a bit of naughty behavior.
DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM