By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
When Lawrence Jameson (Matthew J. Rush), a charming bon vivant (oh heyyyy!) and dirty rotten scoundrel, meets Freddy Benson (Damon Spencer), an uncouth con artist, on a train bound for the French Rivera, he quickly realizes that Beaumont sur Mer isn’t big enough for the both of them in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – The Musical.”
Jameson has been scamming rich widows out of their money for years, but he doesn’t want to contend the young buck who breezes into town. Jameson convinces Benson to peddle his petty cons elsewhere. Benson is just about head for Spain, but a chance encounter with Muriel Eubanks (Cynthia Dougherty) convinces him there’s more to Jameson than meets the eye. A lot more.
Benson barges into Jameson’s villa. He is immediately overwhelmed by the beauty and opulence of his surroundings. The young grifter wants to learn at the feet of the master. Despite the warnings by his right-hand man, Inspector Andre Thibault (Leon S. Zionts), Jameson decides tutor him the artistry of the con.
Benson learns the nuances of scamming wealthy debutantes and widows, but grows bored quickly. Then, Christine Colgate (Stephanie Ottey) checks into the hotel at Beaumont sur Mer. The dastardly duo decide to compete for the young woman’s affections and $50,000 of her money. The game is afoot!
Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek’s musical is based on the 1988 movie with Michael Caine and Steve Martin. They have revised and reshaped the story only slightly to fit the format. However, if you know the movie, you will see the big twist coming from miles away. Knowing the ending doesn’t spoil it. It’s all about the journey not the destination, and there are plenty of laughs on the way.
Rush rules the roost. He is perfect as the king of the con. He’s so debonair and suave while singing and dancing throughout the show. It was a great role for Rush.
From the moment Spencer sidles up to a mark, the show kicks into overdrive. His energy and enthusiasm lifts the show higher. He shines in this role.
Ottey’s Colgate is so delightful. She’s charismatic and charming on stage.
Zionts is smarmy but charming as the French inspector. As far a crooked police inspectors go, he’s right up there with Casablanca’s Captain Renault (Claude Rains). His wry smile made a few jokes work that could have easily conked out in the hands of lesser actors.
Dougherty does an amazing job as well. She was the ideal choice for the role of Muriel Eubanks, oozing with sophistication but with a soupcon of naiveté.
Once again, Candice Fisher knocks it out of the park. Fisher was the highlight at the last Stage 62 show, and she brings all her sass back for this production.
There were some minor quibbles: The ensemble could have used a little more work perfecting their dance moves. There may have been too many of them for the size of the stage. At the Music Hall in Carnegie, the band always overwhelms, even though the actors had microphones. However, it was such a fun show it’s hard to complain – even though it’s my specialty!
It appears (from his brief bio) that it was TJ Pieffer’s directorial debut at Stage 62. It’s an admirable job for a new director. Let’s raise a glass to him! May he have a long and varied career directing around Pittsburgh (and beyond).
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – The Musical” runs through July 29 at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Avenue, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more information, click here.