DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS
The Savoy Theatre | By Alex Dymoke
STARRING Robert Lindsay, Zoe Wanamaker and the guy from the BT adverts, My Family was the sitcom equivalent of Michael McIntyre; good-natured mass-market comedy so inoffensive it ended up offending the chattering classes. Lindsay played flustered middle-class dentist Ben Harper, a far cry from the Olivier Award-winning stage roles that made his name in the 1980s and 90s. He may have strayed too far into the middle of the road, but on the evidence of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels he’s arrived safely on the other side, star-quality intact. The spotlight rarely strays from him in this richly enjoyable musical adaptation of the 1988 caper starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. He plays Lawrence Jameson, a conman holed up in a mansion on the French Riviera. Jameson has the local police chief is in his pocket and the elderly well-to-do tourists eating out of the palm of his hand. Where burglars use crowbars and muggers use violence, Jameson uses old-fashioned charm. He’s got the gift of the gab and all the moves too. He saunters about the stage with grace and rhythm but there’s also an endearing calamitousness; a honk of slapstick to cut through the creamy smoothness.
Jameson goes head-to-head with rookie conman Freddy Benson for the affections (and money) of a leggy blonde heiress.
As Benson, Rufus Hound is the perfect foil for Lindsay. Jameson is a dirty rotten scoundrel wrapped in velvet; Benson is unapologetically, nakedly bad; a rude, crude ne'er-do-well with an ecstatic disregard for taste and a vulgar passion for cash.
The songs may not be musical classics but they’re performed with such boundless enthusiasm that they’re impossible to resist. Who knew Hound could sing like that? Who knew he could move like that?
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a rare thing: an affectionately remembered film bettered by a musical stage adaptation.