by Roseann Cane
In 1964, Marlon Brando pleasantly surprised critics and fans with his wildly funny portrayal of a goofy con artist in the film Bedtime Story. David Niven played a perfect foil, a suave, gentlemanly con artist, with Shirley Jones completing the triumvirate as their demure, naive prey.
The remake, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, appeared in 1988, with Steve Martin and Michael Caine reprising the Brando and Niven roles, and Glenne Headly stepping in for Jones. (Just before I sat down to write this, I was sad to learn that the very gifted Ms. Headly had died.) The writers cleverly added a contemporary plot twist, and this version was every bit as hilarious as the original, if not more so.
2005 brought the Broadway opening of the stage version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Jeffrey Lane. Although the show received mixed reviews in the U.S., it was wildly successful in the U.K., and enjoyed a good, long run on Broadway. It was nominated for a slew of Tony and Drama Desk awards, with Norbert Leo Butz garnering one of each.
(Click HERE to see video highlights)
The Mac-Haydn Theatre production, which opened on June 8th, was my first time seeing it on the stage. The Mac is a rather small theater in the round, which presents some real challenges for a director staging a big, brassy musical, and I have been impressed on more than one occasion to observe their directors rising to the challenge, and then some. For the most part, director John Saunders did an admirable job, as did the actors he directed. The show opened with Sebastiani Romagnolo’s well-choreographed riot of singer/dancers seemingly emerging from everywhere in the house to the stage and back with effortless abandon. To make such well-executed chaos seem effortless is an impressive accomplishment.
But from the top of the production and throughout, I was frustrated by my inability to hear the actors above the orchestra. There is a problem with acoustics at this theater. The actors were mic’d, and while I admit to a personal distaste for the use of microphones, particularly in a small theater (I find their appearance distracting and believe actors should have the skill to project), they ironically made no difference here.
I was also frustrated by my inability to see the face of an actor during a scene in which it is was crucial to see his expression. All I saw was the backs of the two other actors on stage at the time. This is one of those in-the-round challenges that a director needs to resolve.
My inability to hear a good portion of the lyrics aside, the singing voices of the cast were fine indeed. As Lawrence Jameson, the polished con artist, Gabe Belyeu was well cast. Colin Pritchard, who played Freddy Benson (the goofy one), was funny indeed, and his wild and silly physical antics are perfect for this role. Madison Stratton, who plays their potential victim, has a charming voice and a beguiling presence. Steve Hassmer (as Andre Thibault) and Judith Wyatt (as Muriel) round out the cast with their sweet and raunchy subplot.
That said, my biggest problem with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has less to do with the Mac-Haydn’s production than with the show itself. I found the music more and more tedious at the play progressed. None of the songs are memorable. The show is far too long, and could benefit from some cutting–a lot of cutting, in my opinion. I’d welcome the opportunity to see the work of this director, choreographer, and any or all the members of this cast in a different show.
The Mac-Haydn Theatre presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Jeffrey Lane, directed by John Saunders, June 8-18, 2017. Choreographer: Sebastiani Romagnolo; Musical Director: Jillian Zack. Scenic Design; Erin Kiernen; Costume Design: Jimm Halliday; Lighting Design: Andrew Gmoser; Sound Design/Audio Engineer: Ethan Carleton; Master Electrician/Technical Director: Kevin Gleason; Stage Manager: Jennifer Motta
Cast: Gabe Belyeu as Lawrence Jameson; Colin Pritchard as Freddy Benson; Christine Colgate as Madison Stratton; Andre Thibault as Steve Hassmer; Judith Wyatt as Muriel; Kelly Gabrielle Murphy as Jolene; Katie Skawski as Lenore and a member of the ensemble; Michelle Carter as Sophia and a member of the ensemble; Quinn Corcoran as the Croupier, a waiter, and a member of the ensemble; Ryan Owens as the Hotel Manager; Alex Carr as a waiter and a member of the ensemble. Additional Member of the Ensemble: Dakota Dutcher, Ross Flores, Connor Hubbard, Stephen C. Kallas, Dan Macke, Laura Michelle Erle, Megan Hasse, Steffany Pratt, Catherine Skojec, and Sophia Tzougros.
The Mac-Haydn Theatre is located at 1925 NY Route 203 in Chatham, NY. The theatre is air-conditioned and handicap accessible. Call 518-392-9292 for tickets and more information.