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Tuesday, 08 May 2012 15:45

Nice trick

Written by Bob Wilcox
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Kirkwood Theatre Guild caps their season with an unusual choice for a musical. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels does not set a boy-meets-girl plot to sweet love songs. Jeffrey Lane's book, adapted from the movie of the same name, follows a con man-meets-con man plot. David Yazbek sets lyrics and music to a perfectly hummable musical theatre score.

Lawrence Jameson is the smooth, older con man, relieving women of their jewels on the French Riviera. Freddy Benson is a young, unpolished con man, relieving anyone he can of whatever he can, without great success. Jameson takes pity on Freddy and offers him advice. But they decide that the town is too small to support two con men in the style to which Jameson is accustomed and to which Freddy wants to become accustomed. They agree to a contest: the first to do a woman out of $50,000 will stay, the loser goes.

At which point Christine Colgate shows up, introduced as the American Soap Queen from Cincinnati, Ohio. The men think Proctor and Gamble heiress and make her the goal in their competition. Wrong – she simply won a contest, she tells them. The plot twists and untwists from there, the con men are conned, and the show doesn't end when you think it has.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels had a good Broadway run and played the Fox a few years ago. I think it works better in the more intimate space at the Kirkwood Civic Center where the Kirkwood Theatre Guild performs. It's a fairly small musical, focusing on the girl and the con men, plus the local police inspector who provides advice and comfort to Jameson and the rich woman from Nebraska the inspector romances by indirection.

Adam Grun directs, and Kent Coffel plays Jameson. The two worked together on an amazing production of The Producers at Hawthorne Players a couple of years ago, and some of the same magic happens here; the basic material is not as good, but they get a lot out of what is there. Ryan E. Glosemeyer doesn't reveal enough in the role of Freddy Benson for me to see how native son Norbert Leo Butz could have mined a Tony and Drama Desk-winning creation out of it, but Butz did. And Glosemeyer mines enough to hold his own against his rival and co-star.

Caitlin Mickey plays the American Soap Queen with all the sweet innocence and generosity you could want. Mickey can act, she can sing, she can dance, and she does wonders for a short nightie.

Carrie Priesmeyer and Ken Lopinot make the reluctant romance between the Nebraskan heiress and the French detective a delightful bonus in the convoluted con games, and Stephanie Merritt has an amusing turn as a Texan who almost traps Jameson into marriage.

Under Grun's direction, the 16 folks in the ensemble look alive, alert, and interested in what's going on. Musical Director Sean Andrews has everyone in good voice, though the theatre's sound system was being very unkind to those voices. Sean Bippen conducts the band. Kim Klick devises choreography her dancers can handle, which sometimes makes it a little repetitious. Merrick Mohler designed a good-looking unit set, with lights by John (JT) Taylor, costumes by Emily Robinson, and sound design by Amanda Jackson. Stage Manager Chris McGregor keeps the production moving efficiently.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is not one of the great musicals, but the Kirkwood Theatre Guild makes it good entertainment.

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