Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Sep 15 2015 | By More

★★★★☆     That Riviera touch

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 15 – Sat 19 Sept 2015
Review by Martin Gray

The South of France is the setting for this West End musical that’s lighting up the North as it arrives at the Playhouse for a week.

Give Them What They Want, is the message of the first big number of this hit show, fresh from London’s West End. And while in the world of con artists ‘they’ are the victims, the song applies equally to us punters. We go to a musical hoping for a great script, memorable performances and, of course, fabulous songs, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has all of these in spades.

Noel Sullivan as Freddy and Michael Praed as Lawrence. Photo: Alastair Muir

Noel Sullivan as Freddy and Michael Praed as Lawrence. Photo: Alastair Muir

Based on the 1988 comedy starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, Jeffrey Lane’s cracking script tells of a bet between smooth English hustler Lawrence and brash American rival Freddy. The latter is moving in on the former’s French Riviera territory, so Lawrence bets Freddy he can’t beat him to take €50,000 from the next rich woman they see, with the loser leaving town.

Cue a delightful scam involving an emotionally damaged, wheelchair-bound war veteran and an Austrian headshrinker with a very firm hand, some unexpected romance and a hugely satisfying climax.

Michael Praed is perfect as Lawrence, his silver foxiness just right for the vainest man on the Continent. It’s not a stretch to believe heiresses would be throwing themselves – and their chequebooks – at him.

Freddy hasn’t the same looks and manners, but he does have the smarts and ability to improvise an elaborate scam at the drop of a rather shabby hat. And boy, does Noel Sullivan have fun in the part, racing around the stage like a wheelchair-using Lewis Hamilton, employing two distinct American accents and generally proving to be the world’s most fiendish puppy-man.

Praed – still best remembered for stealing hearts as TV’s Robin of Sherwood – gets to show off a fair few accents too, along with a seductive tenor. Sullivan is the ideal partner, his own singing voice a rich treat, and he’s developed commendable comedy chops since giving up pop group Hear’Say to tread the boards. The show’s best moments see Sullivan and Praed swapping banter, two bad guys at the top of their game.


The nearest anyone gets to stealing a scene from them is when Phoebe Coupe shows up as Oklahoma heiress Jolene Oakes, a firecracker who gives Lawrence more than he bargains far. With country gal accent, tiny cowskin shorts and hellraiser attitude, she’s hugely watchable, leading anti-Rodgers and Hammerstein hymn Oklahama? with gusto. She also features in one of the show’s standout – and certainly funniest – numbers, All About Ruprecht, which sees Lawence and Freddy team up to dampen her enthusiasm for wedlock.

Carley Stenson as Christine, and ensemble. Photo Alastair Muir

Carley Stenson as Christine, and ensemble. Photo Alastair Muir

There’s also a strong performance from Carley Stenson as Christine, America’s Soap Queen and subject of the boys’ bet. It’s no wonder both find themselves swooning over her, when she can sell love song Nothing is Too Wonderful To Be True as easily as comic number Love is My Legs.

The immensely likeable Gary Wilmot doesn’t have an enormous amount to do as Lawrence’s accomplice Andre, but that’s the part – what there is, Wilmot grabs, and his romance with monied Surrey dame Muriel is rather sweet. As Muriel, Geraldine Fitzgerald is saddled with the show’s only dud – What Was a Woman To Do? is a bit of a dirge – but she delivers it with style, and is a nice foil for Wilmot.

The show is studded with witty, sharp songs by David Yazbek that advance the story, with The More We Dance a catchy treat, while the closing Dirty Rotten Number is the one you’ll be whistling as you leave the theatre. But later, you may well be wanting to hear Praed’s lovely rendition of the ballad Love Sneaks In once more.

The young ensemble members zoom around as hotel guests, staff and ‘marks’, embracing director Jerry Mitchell’s breezy choreography and providing sharp choral work. The sharpest thing in the show, though, is the comic timing – from line delivery to hat juggling, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the kind of well-oiled machine that builds empires.

Ben Van Tienan leads the live band with verve, and while the touring set may be a tad small for the Playhouse’s enormous stage, its attractive Art Deco stylings are spot-on for the setting. Peter McKintosh’s costumes are equally classy, with Praed’s suits especially fine – most men will look at him and decide to just give up trying to ever look that good.

So far as sunny delights for a dark autumn evening go, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is hard to beat – it’s the con you wish would go on and on…

Running time: 2 hours 35 mins (including interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 15 – Saturday 19 September 2015
Evenings: 7.30pm; Wednesday, Saturday matinee: 2.30pm
Tickets and information from: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dirty-rotten-scoundrels/edinburgh-playhouse/

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels on tour 2015:
Tues 15 – Sat 19 Sept 2015 Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
Tue 22 – Sat 26 Sept 2015 Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7652 Book online
Tue 6 – Sat 10 Oct 2015 Bristol
0844 871 3012 Book online
Tue 13 – Sat 17 Oct 2015 Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
Tue 20 – Sat 24 Oct 2015 Wimbledon
New Theatre
0844 871 7646 Book online
Tue 27 – Sat 31 Oct 2015 Woking
New Victoria Theatre
0844 871 7645 Book online
Tue 10 – Sat 14 Nov 2015 Southend
Cliffs Pavilion
01702 35 11 35 Book online
Tue 24 – Sat 28 Nov 2015 Southampton
023 8071 1811 Book online


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