It may not be the best musical you will ever see, but Orpheus Theatre’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, directed by Shaun Toohey and adapted from the Jeffrey Lane book and Frank Oz movie by the same title, will leave you with a skip in your walk and a hum to your talk by the end.
The musical comedy has much going for it. After all, it is set in the ever-glamourous French Riviera and offers a story rife with drama, comedy and romance centered around the adventures of two mismatched con-men. Add to this an ensemble of fun-filled, if slightly forgettable songs, and you’ll be bouncing in your seat.
Director Shaun Toohey managed to extract comedy, whether subtle or in your face, out of a majority of the scenes, helped along by a set of strong leads including Shawna McSheffrey (as the multi-layered Christine Colgate) and Rob Henderson (as Larence Jason). Ehe contributions of musical director Wendy Berkelaar and choreographer Chantale Kutkewich also made the show sparkle. The dancing may not have been flawlessly on point and the moves sometimes a little bit awkward, but this could easily be forgotten in the fun and glamour that dominated the whole performance.
Mostly responsible for the great appeal of the production is the set designed by Jennifer Donnley who brought the crisp, rich charm of the French Riviera to life. As one beautiful set changed to the next, it was evident that her designs were definitely the highlight of the show. Lighting and costume design were also standouts in the performance, all helping to set the easy-going, calm atmosphere of the bourgeois playground resort.
The romantic subplot between André, the corrupt police chief (played by Lawrence Evenchick) and the wealthy Muriel (played by Irish O’Brien) ended up being one of the more endearing and funny parts of the play thanks to good performances by both actors.
The acting was not perfect, nor was the dancing. This is not a production that will go into any Halls of Fame. Yet, you cannot but allow it to sweep you away for an evening of pure entertainment and charm.
Ottawa, July 6, 2011