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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

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About the Show

Based on the popular 1988 film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels centers on two con men living on the French Riviera. The first is the suave and sophisticated Lawrence Jameson (Lithgow), who makes his lavish living by talking rich ladies out of their money. The other, a small-time crook named Freddy Benson (Butz), more humbly swindles women by waking their compassion with fabricated stories about his grandmother's failing health.


Lyrics by: David Yazbek.
Music by: David Yazbek.
Book by: Jeffrey Lane.

Lawrence Jameson
Christine Colgate
Muriel Eubanks
Freddy Benson
Jolene Oakes
Inspector Andre


Based on the 1988 film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels centers on two competing con men living on the French Riviera. At first, the suave and experienced Lawrence Jameson takes the rookie con man, Freddy, under his wing. But soon, Freddy tries to compete directly with Lawrence. The competition comes to a peak when they agree that the first con man to extract $50,000 from the female heiress, Christine Colgate, wins and the other must leave town forever.


"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" can be a rather naughty affair. Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek's musical, now onstage at the Arvada Center, even launches an F-bomb.
This may come as an unwanted (even unwarranted) surprise to some regulars of the arts venue where the musical runs through Sept. 30 before a stint at the Lone Tree Arts Center from Oct. 4-14.
After all, the 1988 movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin as two con men of markedly different talents working a French Riviera resort was rated PG. Very little onscreen is rated PG these days, but even PG-13 movies aren't allowed to shell audiences with blue language.
Directed by Arvada honcho Rod Lansberry, this production toys with the lewd to mixed effect. What's not to be quibbled with is the musical's high production values and the often hilarious physical comedy barely contained here, thanks in no small measure to Ben Nordstrom as Freddy.
"Scoundrels" wastes no time plunging us into the tale of Freddy and Lawrence, con men who briefly join forces before deciding the French resort town isn't big enough for the two of them.
When the musical opens, Lawrence (Dennis Parlato) is posing as a Prince of an embattled land in need of some champions. What better place to bend the ear of the well-heeled (and high-heeled) than a resort in the French Riviera?
He is aided in his scams by the dapper local police chief, Andre Thibault (Gary Lynch). The pair are handsome gents.
Most of the marks are women, naturally. Though the ones featured don't make for easy victims. Muriel "of Omaha" (Susie Roelofsz) has her wits about her. Texan Jolene (Lorinda Lisitza) won't be easily roped into schemes.
Freddy and Lawrence's wager on who stays and who goes rests on whether fresh-faced Christine (Laura E. Taylor) is as ripe (financially speaking) for plucking as she appears?
Nordstrom's nimble turn as the cocky American injects a lunatic energy into a musical in which the singing alone doesn't carry the play. By turns hammy and wry, the big-eyed actor is utterly agile. He dances, he rocks, he rolls his eyes and zips across the stage in a wheelchair (don't ask).
"Scoundrels" is rife with conspiratorial winks. A charming instance of self-aware playfulness comes when Muriel and Andre make a request of ace musical director and conductor David Nehls. Soon enough, he's playing their song, "Like Zis. Like Zat."
If the first act runs long, the second act moves with verve. Although it, too, seems unable to come to a conclusion.
There is an end, then another, and, wait, one more. But by that last satisfying gesture, the story has reeled us in.
The musical's signature number, "Giving Them What They Want," alludes to the so-called complicity of a mark.
Should the audience beware, too? Hint: We are, after all, in the company of grifters.

Read more: Theater review: Arvada Center's "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" lewd and amusing - The Denver Post
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