Regional Reviews: Phoenix
While the show itself has some drawbacks, mainly due to a score that has a few songs that are just average and a lead female character who doesn't appear until well into the first act, it still is full of fun and foolishness. The plot centers on a pair of charming con men who practice their craft along the French Riviera. The suave and debonair Lawrence Jameson takes under his wing the bumbling buffoon Freddy Benson and together they swindle their way through several unsuspecting marks. However, when they decide to wager a bet on who will be the first to extract $50,000 from the young American heiress Christine Colgate they find that they may not be quite as good at the game as they believe they are. While David Yazbek's score features plenty of jazzy and upbeat tunes, not all of the songs are successful. However Jeffrey Lane's book includes numerous twists and turns as well as characters that, even though they are con men, you grow to care about.
Andrea Robertson's steady direction allowed for the humor and charm in the plot to be front and center and she also found a very good cast capable of creating realistic characters with comical exteriors. Gary Caswell was perfect as the smooth-talking con man Lawrence and Jack Lambert was appropriately comical as the goofball Freddy. They played off each other, and the other actors in the cast, very well. They both instilled their roles with a sense of sheer fun but also provided touching and poignant moments full of realism. Both men showed they are adept singers. Caswell excelled on his touching solo "Love Sneaks In" and Lambert was delicious in his comical numbers "Great Big Stuff" and "Love is My Legs." Both were also superb in the funniest number in the score, "All About Ruprecht."
As Christine Colgate, Brianna Koener brought lots of brass and a keen sense of comical abilities to the clumsy, vulnerable, and adorable woman. Her singing voice is lovely. Roger Hunt was dashing as Lawrence's right-hand man Andre while Cynthia Elek instilled Muriel, the older woman whom Lawrence cons, with a lovely dose of elegance. Though she was only in a few short scenes, Mindee Lee Krymer whooped it up as Jolene, the country girl Lawrence tries to outwit.
Music director Ken Goodenberger achieved a sensational sound from his 18-piece band. Erik H. Reid's set and lighting design was sleek and simple, using just a single staircase to portray the various locations of the plot. Jessica Florez's costumes provided style and sophistication. Choreographer Caroline Wagner infused the proceedings with some intricate steps and, though the large, enthusiastic ensemble wasn't quite able to achieve all they were tasked to do dance-wise, most did just fine.
With many screwball madcap moments but also a rich story and characters you believe in and feel for, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a fast, fresh and funny musical with a big heart. The PVCC production, with a talented cast, clear direction and a smoking band, was simply splendid.
The Paradise Valley Community College production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ran June 17th to the 26th, 2016, at the PVCC Center for the Performing Arts, 18401 North 32nd Street in Phoenix. Tickets and information for their upcoming productions can be found at http://paradisevalley.edu/cpa or by calling (602) 787-7738
Book by Jeffrey Lane