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Brilliant Scoundrels a winning combination

Reporter: Paul Genty
Date online: 19 February 2014

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, Opera House, Manchester
THIS musical has been around for a while but here comes up fresh and very funny in a revised version “for the UK stage”, in what if anything is its perfect medium.

In the original movie, conmen played by Steve Martin and Michael Caine tried to outdo each other as they duped the wealthy of the French Riviera.

But the characters were too unsubtle and the action too unrealistic for the medium.

Here there is no such problem. Musical theatre is made for caricature characters and in this show gets some terrific ones, alongside a production that never takes itself too seriously and is packed with the sort of silly little details that can make stage comedy such fun.

The show’s creative team is a strong one: there is expert director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell (“Legally Blonde”), a funny book by Emmy-winner Jeffrey Lane; often hilarious lyrics by award-winner David Yasbeck, topped of by a terrific art-deco set by Olivier-winner Peter McKintosh.

Piled on top of these are a marvellously laid-back song-and-dance performance from Robert Lindsay as urbane con specialist Lawrence, whether as a prince in exile or a Viennese psychiatrist; and a frantically funny one from Rufus Hound as Freddy, the young usurper who must try harder.

The pair of them bounce comic dialogue off each other in a brilliant series of set pieces designed to see which of them is to be crowned King Con.

They don’t have it all their own way, of course: Samantha Bond puts in another lovely performance — with a fair stab at singing and great comic timing — as a wealthy widow duped by Lawrence but later finding love with police chief Andre (John Marquez).

And there’s a strong showing from Lizzy Connolly, great fun as the naive girl conned in Lawrence and Freddy’s first job together.

But the pair meet their match when they try to con “soap queen” Christine (the statuesque Katherine Kingsley).

She appears to fall for Freddy — as Buzz, the paralysed war hero; then gets Lawrence to fall for her . . . then reveals her true colours and everything ends happily ever after, or thereabouts.

If the first half seems a little long there’s always another sight gag along in a minute and never a dull moment. Great fun, but you only have until Saturday to catch it.

 

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