Gary Rucker (center) stars in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
In a town in France, a dapper gentleman makes his living by posing as a prince and defrauding female tourists. He extracts plenty of money until an up-and-coming con artist threatens to expose him. The competition is on as they prey upon the same woman in the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
, currently running at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts.
Based on the 1988 film of the same name, which starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine, the show centers on the competitive relationship between the mentor, Lawrence (Robert Pavlovich), and the brash young Freddy (Gary Rucker). Pavlovich is an exceedingly charming and suave Lawrence, who easily deceives many women. He’s like a James Bond who can sing. His bodyguard Andre (Louis Dudoussat) helps give him an air of importance, and Dudoussat gives the guard a sinister yet naive quality. Freddy is crass and unrefined, and Rucker is fantastic in the role as he revels in vulgarity, spouting sexual innuendos and thrusting his hips. Rucker’s comedic timing turns the smallest joke into a substantial laugh.
Eric Porter created an elaborate set, and there are changes for almost every scene. A dungeon quickly becomes a club and then a fancy hotel room.
Choreographer Caroline Cuseo’s dance numbers are exceptional. Routines incorporate the entire ensemble and punctuate the funniest moments. When Oklahoman Jolene Oakes (Kelly Fouchi) mistakenly thinks Lawrence is offering to marry her, the cast comes out in Western shirts and 10-gallon hats. They perform an acrobatic line dance that sends them twirling around the stage.
The cast’s playfulness helps pull off the comedy, but the plot relies heavily on a series of hijinks and double-crosses. At times, dialogue becomes self-referential and directly comments on the absurdity of the action and that causes the narrative to drag. It’s hard not to roll one’s eyes at some of the self-conscious jokes, but this cast, especially Rucker, keep it palatable.
The story takes its most dramatic and satisfying turn when “American Soap Queen” Christine Colgate (Kayla Herrington) arrives and the two con artists enter a bet to see who can scam $50,000 out of her. Herrington is convincingly doe-eyed and innocent, which helps focus the second act. Her emotional range keeps the show from getting lost in its premise. Herrington has the strongest voice of the cast, and sings many of the plot’s most crucial songs.
While a few jokes come off as too easy, this production succeeds by combining great choreography, a talented cast and an excellent set.
Through May 23
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
8 p.m. Thu.-Sat.; 2 p.m. Sun.
Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts
, 325 Minor St., (504) 461-9475