Anyone looking for a light-hearted romp with verve to start their summer would do well to head to the Stageworks Theater to see their deliciously fun production of Dirty rotten villains. With a wacky book by Jeffrey Lane and a catchy score by David Yazbek (also known for The full Monty, Women on the verge of a nervous breakdownand Tony Award winner The group visit), the musical was nominated for Best Musical, Book and Score at the 2005 Tony Awards. With confident direction from Jeremy Dumont and a talented cast, this production will have you laughing, smiling and getting carried away with its tale of cunning and deception in the picturesque Côte d’Azur.
An adaptation of the 1988 film of the same name (which starred comedy legends Steve Martin and Michael Caine), Dirty rotten villains tells the story of seasoned con artist Lawrence Jameson as he takes on Freddy Benson, not the beloved iCarly character, but a younger and more inexperienced trickster than his student. Hijinks ensue as the two take aim at “American soap queen,” Christine Colgate, and decide to compete to see who can scam her $50,000 first.
As you can imagine, much of this show’s charm rests with its two leads, and while Brandon Del Castillo and Taylor Fisher fall short of Martin and Caine’s comedic excellence, they know what’s going on. makes their characters funny and they serve to the best of their ability. Del Castillo captures Lawrence’s pretentiousness and obsession, while Fisher brings an appropriate amount of verve and raw charisma to the less refined Freddy. Fisher is also the stronger vocalist of the two, dropping clean belts during his character’s tougher songs.
Anyone worried, given the premise of the musical, that Christine might end up as a two-dimensional pawn of both men, let me allay your fears; Christine gives as well as she gets and Amanda Hart Bassett makes a meal of the role (she also rocks the house with a sash that goes up to the back wall of the theater).
The women on this show have as much fun as the guys, as Kelsey Heaton and Dru Peacock Wiser tear up their scenes as the ever-present Muriel Eubanks and Oklahoman Jolene Oakes, respectively. Wiser, in particular, earned her own standing ovation at curtain call for the enthusiastic way she engages in the madness of her character.
The musical direction, signed Brandon Tanner, does justice to the jazzy score by David Yazbek, supported by energetic choreography by Adam W. Delka. Some of the group numbers could be better balanced, but the solo numbers are sublime, especially “What Was a Woman to Do”, “Great Big Stuff”, “Love is My Legs” and “Dirty Rotten Number”.
The design is also efficient; simple where needed and resplendent where permitted. The costume team, which includes Amy Duren, Susan Holmes, Julie Montgomery, Barbara Terry, Shandra Wilkinson and Stephanie Wisdom, provides some pretty eye candy, especially for Christine. Bassett wears bright yellows and blues that not only enhance the wholesomeness of his character, but also his openness. Meanwhile, the cow print and fringe that Wiser is adorned with may be a bit on the nose, but she feels so comfortable in it that she becomes like a second skin (a major plus for her to be able to do high kicks in those leather pants).
The set design, by Ben Mason, cleverly uses two blue curtains to provide a variety of effects. At the start of the piece they function as a canvas, but as the show progresses they are draped, tied and pulled in different arrangements to suggest a variety of different locations. The lights, by David Palmer, also evoke flash and the old-fashioned spectacle embodied by Lawrence and Freddy.
I’m not going to lie and say the script is substantial. There are a few outdated jokes (I’m looking at you, Ruprecht) but they aren’t too intrusive and don’t take away from the series’ country charms. You might find yourself invested in Lawrence and Freddy’s little engagement and smile at the eccentric antics they incite.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels runs through June 12 at the Stageworks Theater at 10760 Grant Road, Houston, TX 77070. Tickets start at $26 and can be purchased below. or by contacting the box office at (281) 587-6100.