Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a stage adaptation of the 1988 film, is an unashamedly silly musical that chucks political correctness out of the window. Just when you think it can’t get more ludicrous, the plot skids and slides into territories that are even more absurd and outrageous. But somehow it’s gloriously good.
Set on the French Riviera, the show centres on two con-men who have dedicated their lives to stealing from wealthy unassuming women. The suave Lawrence (Rob Archibald) has built an empire guided by the principle that in robbing others he’s giving them what they want. Freddy (Joey Henshaw) on the other hand is a low-brow cheat and all he’s after is ‘great big stuff’.
When Lawrence agrees to take Freddy under his wing and show him the ropes, a very unlikely love/hate bromance develops. The stakes heighten when they bet on who can trick the sweet Christine (Imogen Johnson) into giving one of them $50,000. This ultimately tests just how far they’ll both go to pull off a scam.
The musical’s book by Jeffrey Lane has a dopey and self-aware humour where no joke is off-limit. Rob Archibald delivers a dazzlingly confident central performance as Lawrence showcasing brilliant comedic timing as well strong acting and vocal chops. Joey Henshaw as Freddy is an equally capable stage partner who fully thrusts himself into the physical comedy aspect of the role. In a genre which is usually driven by a romantic plot, it’s a welcome change to see the male platonic bond between the pair at the heart of the show.
The musical has the air of a big Broadway classic, thanks to its delicious jazz score by David Yazbek. Each time a musical number kicks in that employs each member of the strong ensemble cast (Love is My Legs and Dirty Rotten Number being personal favourites), the production bursts with life, perfectly filling the Bridewell theatre space. It’s a joy to watch the polished choreography (Jonathon Grant and Fiona McConachie) with routines which constantly surprises. To top it all off designer, Edith Webb, has adorned each of the performers with top-notch eye-catching costumes.
After my last visit to the Bridewell Theatre, I left raving about Sedos’ stellar production of Ragtime. Here I am two years later to confirm that they have once again raised the bar. Sedos’ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a scheming, head-reeling yet endlessly appealing musical production.
Photo Credit: David Ovenden