Journal Inquirer Review
by Lauren Yarger
Two con men compete to claim the French Riviera as prize territory by seeing who will be the first to bilk an heiress out of $50,000 in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” getting at run at Broad Brook Opera House.
With a book by Jeffrey Lane, based on the film “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” written by Dave Launer, Stanley Shapiro, and Paul Henning (starring Michael Caine, Steve Martin, and Glenne Headly), this stage version is turned musical with a score and lyrics by David Yazbek (“The Full Monty”).
Playboy Lawrence (Brian Rucci), with the help of partner Andre (Michael King), has been living a life of luxury, taking advantage of rich, vacationing women by pretending to be royalty in disguise, in need of private financing to return to power in his country. It works smoothly, especially with Muriel (Tracy Funke), until Freddy (Randy Davidson), a newbie con man with skills that threaten Lawrence’s undisputed rule of the territory, shows up.
Rather than try to compete with a master, Freddy asks Lawrence to train him, and the two team up. This may be the best way the men have of staying in the game, especially with the infamous and elusive con artist extraordinaire known as “The Jackal” racking up millions in swindles.
When one of Lawrence’s marks, Jolene (Emily Stisser), tries to hog tie him into married life back in Oklahoma, Freddy steps in to play his dimwitted and perverted brother Ruprecht. If you have seen the film, you will know why I am laughing out loud just at typing his name here. The scene transfers nicely to stage as well, and Davidson, directed by Denise Boutin, had me sputtering with his facial expressions as well as the zany antics (he also shows comedic prowess in a scene where he hops around while being tied up).
Eventually two con men are one too many and the men decide to compete to see who gets to stay (Josiah Durham’s set puts us on the Riviera and Costume Designer Moonyean Field dresses the cast, though Lawrence’s ill-fitting suit with large hems and uneven sleeves surely would give him away since royalty would have better tailoring).
They target newly arriving “American Soap Queen” heiress Christine (a perky Christine Voytko) to see who can get her money — and perhaps a bit more — first and win the bet. Their elaborate schemes run into trouble, however, when Lawrence starts to fall for the innocent, kind-hearted woman.
The plot is funny and the Opera House Players seem to be having fun up there. Stealing the show is Funke as the lonely woman who finally finds a romantic connection in an unexpected place. Her fine vocal talent shines in the songs “What Was Woman to Do” and “Like Zis/Like Zat.”
Yazbek’s score, though nicely played by the four-person orchestra directed by Paul Freyer and given movement by choreographer Amy Bouchard, isn’t all that memorable and seems to lack a certain “oomph” needed to put the songs over in a show that seemed long at two and a half hours. And since this isn’t professional theater, I won’t go into details, but there is a case of unfortunate miscasting here with painful results as vocal ability cannot match demands of the score.
But Ruprecht makes it all worthwhile.
Lauren Yarger is editor of the Connecticut Arts Connection and owner/producer at www.TheWritePros.com Stage review