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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Performance Reviews
Imperial Theatre
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 31, 2005
Imperial Theatre
249 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036

About the Author:

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
(Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Website)

Book By Jeffrey Lane
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
(Based on the Film by Launer, Shapiro, & Henning)

John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz,
Sherie Rene Scott, Joanna Gleason,
Gregory Jbara, Sara Gettelfinger
And The Ensemble

Imperial Theatre
249 West 45th Street

Directed by Jack O'Brien
Choreography by Jerry Mitchell
Executive Producer: Marty Bell/Aldo Scrofani
Musical Direction/Arrangements: Ted Sperling
Scenic Design: David Rockwell
Costume Design: Greg Barnes
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Sound Design: Acme Sound Partners
Casting: Bernard Telsey Casting
Associate Choreographer: Denis Jones
Orchestrations: Harold Wheeler
Vocal Music Arrangements: Ted Sperling/David Tazbek
Dance Music Arrangements: Zane Mark
Conductor: Fred Lassen
Music Coordinator: Howard Joines
Technical Supervisor: Christopher Smith
Production Stage Manager: Michael Brunner
Press: Barlow*Hartman
Marketing: Margery Singer Company
General Management: The Charlotte Wilcox Company
Produced by Bell, Brown, Scrofani, Furman, Harris, Lipitz, Smith, Hendel, Mishkin, Tatelman, Black, Karmazin, Schweickert, Abrams/Speyer, Belasco, Whitman,
Weissberger Theater Group/Harris, Weisenfeld/Cheever, Ziegfeld,
Clear Channel Entertainment and Harvey Weinstein,
MGM On Stage/Denkert and Stolber

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 31, 2005

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels brought to mind 1930's musicals, absent the exquisite choreography of ballroom or kaleidoscopic dance, but replete with vaudevillian humor and lots and lots of palm trees, a train, a blond, and a couple of guys involved in a heist or two. The couple of guys became a trio of guys, as John Lithgow (as elegant and versatile Lawrence Jameson), Gregory Jbara (as French, but needy Andre Thibault) took on for training, in a stunt to steal, Norbert Leo Butz (as sloppy, sexed up Freddy Benson). The French Riviera setting of Beaumont-Sur-Mer was enhanced with some of the most creative scenery I've seen in some time, using part of the stage (a place within a place), with fainting couches, palms, sterling silver accoutrements, draperies, trains, scenic windows, scenic patios, and beds, beds…

There was even a Western rodeo scene (a la Oklahoma) inserted into this French seaside resort (dream within a dream, perhaps), for Sara Gettelfinger (as clinging, ditzy Jolene Oakes) to teach her "prey" about her little home town. Not only were palm trees and beds the referential props, but leggy broads seemed to sprout like coconuts, entering here, exiting there, dancing, singing, soliloquizing. The lead blonde, Sherie Rene Scott (as "generous, sincere", then wily, treacherous Christine Colgate), seems to fall in love not once, but twice, seducing two lead men into sacrificing a wallet and a few satin sheets. The lead brunette, Joanna Gleason (as self-effacing, ennui infected Muriel Eubanks), wins Andre's heart and gets a song or two in the process.

Jerry Mitchell's choreography has something for all ballroom buffs, a bit of Mambo, a bit of Swing, and a good deal of old-fashioned chorus lines and synchronized high kicks. The rhythms changed rapidly, and moody, melancholy turned to campy, character dance in the wink of wide-eyed, wide-grinning, dynamic duos and energetic ensembles. Gregg Barnes' eclectic costumes, such as sexy maids, fringed cowgirls, dapper con men, and frumpy con trainee. David Rockwell's scenes, lushly draped interiors, postcard painted exteriors, moving trains and bedrooms, gilded hotel lobby, and the ever-present, very 30's palms, almost placed this plot in days of yore. However, the rapid-fire pranks and patter injected au courant humor and even a jab or three, like references to mood-enhancing medicine and the Prince of the British throne.

David Yazbek's and Ted Sperling's songs, with Zane Mark's dance music arrangements and Harold Wheeler's orchestrations, combined to concoct a racy, fizzy, over-the-top musical evening with high hormone dance very playful, puffy interchanges. Jeffrey Lane's highly entertaining, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (based on the 1988 film with Steve Martin and Michael Caine), expertly directed by Jack O'Brien, has been nominated for several 2005 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Director of a Musical, Best Lighting in a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Book of a Musical, Best Score, and Best Orchestrations.

John Lithgow and Norbert Lee Butz are both competing for the same Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award, and both actors presented outsized humor, pathos, vocal technique, style, and bouncing, brassy Broadway rhythm. Mr. Butz seemed most suited for his quasi-Pygmalion role, possessing some of the most ribald, raunchy jokes and bold, body language of this almost three hour pricey production. Sherie Rene Scott, a loose cannon on and offstage (appearing in the aisle in casual dress), knew how to pull the sheets over their eyes.

See this show for the acting, the dancing, and the tantalizing tunes. I'm still reflecting on "The More We Dance" and "Love Sneaks In". Kudos to the cast, to Jeffrey Lane, to David Tazbek, to Jack O'Brien, and especially to Jerry Mitchell for giving us a hit to see again and again, as the lines fly as fast as the "Great Big Stuff".

Norbert Leo Butz, John Lithgow and Sherie Rene Scott in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Norbert Leo Butz and Ensemble in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg

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