Based on the 1988 comedy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels received it’s West End premier earlier this year at the Savoy Theatre. Opening to largely rave reviews, the show has only got slicker. New cast members have added real vitality to the already spirited show, with theatre legends Bonnie Langford, Gary Wilmot and Alex Gaumand joining the line-up.
Based on the Steve Martin and Michael Caine movie, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is about two con artists who compete to swindle a heiress out of $50,000. Robert Lindsay stars as Lawrence, the suave con man who has women practically falling over themselves to hand over their riches. Alex Gaumond replaces Rufus Hound as the new trickster in town who, at first, learns from Lawrence before competing against him in the ultimate con. The plot paves the way for a series of increasingly hilarious set pieces as the con men try to out-wit and foil their competitor.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels offers something distinctly fresh to the West End. On one hand, it feels old-school – with rousing choreography, slick staging and polished performances. But it also has some nice modern touches, with asides to the audience creating some huge laughs as the actors routinely break the fourth wall. Lindsay, in particular, relishes the dramatic device and milks it for all it’s worth.
The score isn’t particularly memorable, and you probably won’t be humming many of the tunes in the morning, but the lyrics are sharp as a knife and really bring the story to life. This is highlighted best in a stand-out number in the first half where Lawrence realises he may have bitten off more than he can chew in the form of Jolene Oakes, a woman intent on marrying Lawrence and moving her new beau to Oklahoma. The song is an absolute riot, continually building to a high-kicking climax which sees Lizzy Connolly bring the house down with a barn-storming turn as the bride-in-waiting.
So what about the new cast members? Bonnie Langford replaces Samantha Bond as Muriel, a wealthy woman who falls for Lawrence’s charms before setting her sights on his French sidekick, Andre. Langford is fantastic in the role and fills the stage with all of the grace and charisma you can expect from a performer of her experience. She has great chemistry with Gary Wilmot, who stars as Andre, with their duet Like Zis/Like Zat a real highlight. The winning duo get some of the biggest laughs of the night and make a perfect double act.
Gaumand is one of the busiest and most popular actors in the West End, recently performing in the likes of Matilda, Top Hat and We Will Rock You, and brings his talents to the Savoy Theatre in spades. The actor has probably the most challenging role of the production as he dons multiple guises in order to trick his victims including the repulsive Ruprecht and a paralysed war hero. It’s not hard to see why Gaumand is such an in-demand performer, his infectious energy permeates the entire production.
Robert Lindsay continues his role as Lawrence and is a smooth as ever. He may not have the strongest singing voice but certainly sells his songs with wit and panache. Katherine Kingsley rounds out the stellar cast as the targeted heiress and makes the most of her vocal prowess with the strongest vocals of the night.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels offers a riotously good time from start to end. Featuring seasoned performances, one of the funniest books currently on stage and a real sense of style, this show deserves to be a West End mainstay for many years to come.