Review – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre

Tuesday 1 April 2014

posterIf you feel the need to say “We had great seats” or “the sets were very good” when you come out of the theatre then there’s a big possibly that something is very wrong with the show itself.

Phil burbled enthusiastically on both these matters when he left Dirty Rotten Scoundrels last night.

Peter McKintosh’s uncluttered, crisp designs slip into the glorious Art Deco interior of the Savoy Theatre like a glove (that would be a glove coated in, ahem, K-Y Jelly. See later). They seem almost an extension of the auditorium itself and with swift, relatively simple, adjustments conjure up all the requisite locations whilst never delaying or distracting from the show.

Now for the bad news.

Well, of course it’s a bit late in the day of April 1st for joshing (it can hardly be a coincidence that they’ve chosen this particular day to open a show about tricksters). And sorry to disappoint (some), but on balance the good far outweighs the bad. Not that the show is in anyway perfect but Phil still had much more fun than he’d anticipated.

He’d previously found the charms of Robert Lindsay pretty easy to resist and managed to maintain this resistance until about midway through Act 1. The appreciative round of applause on Lindsay’s entrance had been slightly irritating. Perhaps it was for Rufus Hound? Hard to tell. The two play competing swindlers, Lawrence and Freddy, seducing women (Samantha Bond and Katherine Kingsley among others) out of their fortunes on the French Riviera. Had Phil been conned too?

It’s based (yet again) on a “classic” film, which, like a lot of life, had somehow completely passed Phil by. Not having seen the 1988 comedy probably helped. Turns out to be a pretty watchable yarn (book Jeffrey Lane based on the screenplay) which neatly wrong-foots the audience a couple of times. Resistance seemed futile.

The numbers (music and lyrics David Yazbek) are jauntily varied and sometimes tuneful if fairly unmemorable but at least they often advance the action and are frequently broken by good bits of comedy. If only the sound had been clearer. Some of the songs have flashes of decent lyrics, but some of them, even from the 3rd row dress circle, were lost.

A shouty number “Great Big Stuff ” was heard by Phil’s companion for the evening as “HP Sauce” (not just Phil having hearing difficulties then) another “Ruffhousin’ Mit Shüffhausenis” remained amusing despite Lindsay’s comedy Austrian accent rendering some of the lines inaudible.

Compensations came in the form of a rousing cowboy/girl number, “Oklahoma?” led rip-roaringly by a pistol-packing oil heiress, Jolene (Lizzy Connolly). But, despite sound issues, trust Phil to catch a musical first in the line “K-Y Jelly on a rubber glove” in “All About Ruprecht” where Lawrence gets Freddy to pose as his socially-impaired brother in an attempt to ditch Jolene. If you remember Terry Scott’s ‘comedy’ record “My Brother” this racier, updated version, will make it never sound the same again. For that we must be grateful. Oh, and above all, there’s some not insignificant yodelling. Andrew would have approved.

Could be a theatrical sleight-of-hand or just plain acting, but Lindsay and Hound appear to have a natural comedic chemistry together. Both reference their turns in previous shows; the former his hat antics in Me and My Girl, the latter his peanut throwing party trick in One Man, Two Guvnors. Plus there’s some fourth wall-breaking as they play around with the orchestra and a singing programme seller in the stalls again. I Can’t Sing! also features one. Could this overtake the onstage urination trend?

Bond tackles a musical part gamely. Her elegance gets her through the dancing; she’ll never be one of the comedy turns on Strictly. Her comedy’s present elsewhere; Phil’s still chuckling about her bit of business concerning a hangover and a hotel balcony.

And if only one out of the four biggest poster names (the ever-excellent Kingsley steals yet another show) can really belt out a number they all come out sounding like opera stars if you were unfortunate enough to witness newsreader Jon Snow’s foolhardy brave, watch-through-your-fingers attempts in Our Gay Wedding: The Musical last night.

Jerry Mitchell‘s production is very traditional, almost old fashioned musical comedy fare with an emphasis on comedy and some gloriously silly slapstick and there’s nothing wrong with that. Like the rich duped women in the show even Phil was seduced in the end. It just took him a little longer.

Could be a hit. Who knows? In these post-Monty days only an April fool would try and predict.

Completely off topic. We assume you’ve all been ‘Travoltifying‘ your names. For the record Phil’s is “Phoenix Allorn‘. West End Whinger comes out as ‘Wayne Edjans‘.

Katherine Kingsley’s is ‘Kristopher Keezy‘. Let’s hope whoever announces her Olivier Award nomination remembers next year.










7 Responses to “Review – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre”

  1. Agree with all of that. I didn’t expect much, and the first 15 minutes seemed to confirm my fears, but then the show picked up and grabbed my in spite of myself, and I ended up coming away very, very satisfied. The singing is almost universally bad, the choreographed numbers forgettable, and the production itself is only middling (although the set is gloriously thoughtful) but it holds together thanks to terrific comic acting, and a script packed full of laugh-out-loud gags. Isn’t the Savoy Theatre a lovely venue too. Good fun all round!

  2. Bill Says:

    Did R. Lindsay do any of that amazingly annoying incessant whistling he perpetrated in Me and My Girl? How wistful the words that Andrew “would have loved it,” like a reference to a now-departed eminence such as James Agate…

  3. margarita Says:

    I have nothing to do with this production which I enjoyed very much. I also sat in Dress Circle Row C – terrific seats – and would venture without any authority to suggest that sound is difficult in that area because, despite the huge array of speakers, there’s nowhere in the vast openess to place the small boosters that enhance vocals. Without any experience of sitting elsewhere it’s more than possible that there is an extra bite on the vocals in the areas within range of those small extra speakers.

  4. sammioneill Says:

    Thanks for the review – definately on my list of things to seats – shall make sure I have good seats. Loved the film let’s see what they do with it.

  5. Fran Says:

    I agree, I was hesitant and not overwhelmed by the first half but I thought the second half really picked up. Lindsay is just wonderful, as is Samantha Bond.

  6. I havent seen this yet but I am considering getting westend shows tickets to see this, I’ve read lots of reviews and I think I would enjoy it!

  7. sandra ford Says:

    sandra says–fantastic show! All the cast were excellent and full marks to samantha bonds understudy on 4/7/14–superb

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