Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Musical - review

3.00

Savoy Theatre, London

Every adaptation is burdened by the question ‘What’s the point?’  If the West End’s two movie-to-stage shows in as many weeks has proved one thing, it’s that an adaptation has to be pretty radical to make the stage version worthwhile. Otherwise you end up with the largely pointless Fatal Attraction.

This one, based on the 1988 comedy starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, has been turned into a musical which is always a radical transformation, if these days pretty common. But at least there is the sense here of the creators of this 2005 Broadway hit doing something more interesting than offering film fans a nostalgia trip.

Tempting the Robert Lindsay back into musical theatre for the first time in 16 years can be no waste of time either. He plays suave and so-smooth-you-could-ski-down-him English conman Lawrence Jameson (Michael Caine’s character) who seduces and then steals from rich women on the Côte d’Azur such as Samantha Bond’s lovelorn heiress.

Comedian Rufus Hound is the much coarser Freddy, a small-time American grifter. Lawrence’s stings involve pretending to be a prince and extorting thousands from his victims. Freddy’s idea of a good day at the office is swindling 20 bucks for a meal. David Yazbek’s clever score sums up the traits by allotting Lawrence a song about giving women “what they want” while Freddy gets the aspirational Great Big Stuff, which covets “a life of taste and class, with culture and sophistication pouring out my ass.”

A scene from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at The Savoy Theatre A scene from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at The Savoy Theatre

Freddy wants to be educated in the ways of the high class con and for a moment it looks as if Lawrence will be Henry Higgins to Freddy’s Eliza Doolittle. But instead they compete for the right to work the riviera. The first to separate 50,000 Euros from Katherine Kingsley’s endearingly naïve American abroad wins the territory.

At an incredibly fit-looking 64, Lindsay can turn on oily sophistication as if it were on tap. Yet it’s a performance big on charisma and light on charm. Clutching an expensive ring to be used as bait in a con, Lindsay’s Lawrence switches from prince (Charles) mode to bluntly asking his partner-in-crime – John Marquez’s gauche French Police Chief - if he remembered to get a receipt, which provides a flash of modest beginnings. But by the end of Jerry Mitchell’s slick production you know little about these con artists except that Freddy has been alone since he was 15.

There’s a sense that Jeffrey Lane’s book could have added depth to the source material, but didn’t. And when you think of just how funny and oddly moving was that other film-to-stage musical featuring two contrasting conmen, The Producers, these less vulnerable and loveable scoundrels are nowhere near as easy to root for.

Which is not to say there aren’t some standout moments. There’s a witty line of gags subverting musical conventions; a deliciously incongruous hoedown with Lawrence’s unintended prospective bride (a terrifyingly gun-toting Texan terrifically played by Lizzy Connolly) and next to Lindsay’s louche swindler Hound injects a note of madcap risk-taking honed in One Man, Two Guvnor’s. 

There is a point to this show, but it’s hardly an essential one.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there