The Savoy Theatre.
Fleecing women and outsmarting each other, the scoundrels are still ruling the Riviera in Jerry Mitchell’s slick musical.
Everyone loves a clever con – as long as it’s not at their expense, of course. From Hustle to Catch Me If You Can, there’s pleasure in watching someone else being royally fleeced by an expert in the art.
And in ‘‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’’, Robert Lindsay excels as Lawrence Jameson – a predator who’s irrepressibly self-assured, a terrific dancer, and a parter of lovestruck women from their cash and valuables. Not, on the face of it, a very sympathetic character, but Lindsay cajoles us by the sheer force of his charm. It’s the role played by Michael Caine in the 1988 film, in turn inspired by 1964’s Bedtime Story, starring the epitome of an urbane gentleman thief, David Niven.
Lindsay sets his traps in the hotel that’s part of a stunningly designed and constructed set by Peter McKintosh, who’s also responsible for the 1950s costumes of the French Riviera.
His design pays tribute to its beautiful surroundings in the Savoy Theatre’s restored interior, both in materials and in its elegant curves, bringing the audience right into the foyer of the hotel, so to speak.
Lawrence Jameson’s wooing and winning is so successful he’s even willing to take on an apprentice – Freddy Benson, the young pretender to his crown.
A man who can play Miss Trunchbull can surely tackle Freddy, and new cast member Alex Gaumond sails into the role with relish, gambolling like an overgrown and very bad puppy who’s keen to learn new tricks from the master – but soon feels ready to challenge his supremacy.
His first number, Great Big Stuff, shows his vocal power, but he’s also a spine-tingling harmoniser in Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True, a song which brings the first real emotion to a story which has felt rather cynical up to that point.
Katherine Kingsley, who’s stole the show as Helena in Michael Grandage’s ‘‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’’ last year, is on top comedic form as gauche, clumsy Christine Colgate, a woman with the sweetest, open nature – and a very well-kept secret.
Bonnie Langford sparkles as the wistful Muriel Eubanks. Her late-blooming love affair with Gary Wilmot’s cynical police chief gets the best laughs of the night with an X-rated morning-after balcony scene.
And Lizzy Connolly is a force of nature as gun-totin’, line-dancing liability Jolene Oakes.
Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell from the book by Jeffrey Lane, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a slick, beautifully staged show with a first-rate orchestra conducted by Richard John. It’s cool, calculating plot may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a visual feast, with star performers at the top of their game.
First published at WhatsOnStage.com