I saw the Steve Martin film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels quite a few years ago. I recall that I really liked Martin in it, and thought it passed for humorous. I figured it was sweet that that movie was now a stage play. Sounded just right for the Amil Tellers of Dramatics/Encore Theatre audience. Then I realized that this play was actually a musical, and I whispered, “Uh oh…” I have not seen a lot of movies-to-musical. I have not seen many, because I don’t think they translate well to live-stage.
But I was definitely intrigued by the prospect of seeing “Dirty…” after I saw the cast list. Playing the two principal “scoundrels” are Jeff Kerr and Doug Norton. Each of these gentleman is well trained for the kind of musical comedy that is required. Kerr, playing Lawrence Jameson, is one of the most natural actors I have seen. He has that peculiar talent for slyly making his slimy con-man appear perfectly normal.
Norton has a great sense of timing, and plays the conniving Freddy Benson with panache. He is a weasel from his first entrance, and never blows his cover. He and Kerr work extremely well together, in their roles as mentor and pupil. They built their antagonism over the course of two-plus hours, allowing their audience to buy-in on the ridiculous lengths to which they went to defeat each other.
Norton and Kerr can sing. I have heard each of them in previous performances, carrying various plot lines. I had a little trouble hearing them during the performance I had attended. But, sitting in the last row and having some hearing loss can account for that. At any rate, what I heard was terrific.
Jodi Brincefield, a very-gifted comedienne, was cast mostly for her huge personality and comic timing, than for her singing. I had never heard her sing before, and I was pleasantly surprised. The songs written were difficult, both for actors to sing, and audience to hear, appeared problematic for the cast and for Brincefield who managed to hold her own.
When I heard that Morgan Bode was to play Christine Colgate, I was thrilled. I have never seen Ms. Bode in any role which has eluded her. She has the voice. She has the look. She has the stunning aura. She lights up every stage upon which she appears. She did not fail to please, here. Her interactions with Kerr and Norton, in which she gave these guys with years more of experience, everything they could handle, were some of the best.
There were many other fine performances. The cast obviously enjoyed themselves thoroughly. The cue pickups were superb, the energy was electric, and the audience appreciated the effort. It was a very fun evening’s entertainment.
I have to say, as I repeated, over and over, to the cast, post-curtain, the music for this show does not resonate with me. I want songs that get stuck in my head, and can’t be jack hammered out for days. This show did not reach me that way. This is not to indict the pit crew, (Professional group!) or the cast. I looked for the author(s) names to see if I knew them from something else, but somehow I missed that info in the program. I also noticed that one of the sponsors of the show was a credit union which has not existed for over a year. But none of this means a doggone thing. I was entertained. The audience was entertained. And I could see the actors and musicians were entertained. This is the purpose of live theatre. In that respect the evening was a huge success.
Oh, I forgot one person I wanted to mention. In the part of Jolene Oakes, director Christopher Butturff , inserted a crazy woman. I was incredibly amused and annoyed by this woman from the American breadbasket. This woman had tongues and brains buzzing, from the moment she arrived. Later, I was shocked when I was informed that Oakes was played by Encore veteran Julie Kerr. This is someone I have always enjoyed, crazy or not. I could not believe I did not recognize her. She really wowed the crowd.
I would like to take a moment to recommend this musical to anyone who is looking for a couple hours of fun. I do not think I would bring my child of 14 years or less, as some subject matter, and some language is not appropriate for those of that age. There is still another weekend available for you to make it an anticipated event. I urge you to go. The final performances at Encore Theatre in Lima, Ohio are January 20, 21 & 22, 2017!