Theatre review: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy Theatre

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, , Writer - Jeffrey Lane , Director - Jerry Mitchell, Designer - Peter Mckintosh, The...

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, , Writer - Jeffrey Lane , Director - Jerry Mitchell, Designer - Peter Mckintosh, The Savoy Theatre, London, UK, 2014, Credit: Johan Persson/ - Credit: Archant

Yet another classic film-turned-musical hits the West End, but unlike recent turkey Fatal Attraction, this story of conmen peddling tall tales to heiresses in a fantasy French Riviera is ripe for the razzle-dazzle jazz-hands treatment.

Nor is its derivativeness problematic in a production that celebrates and winks at tradition, borrowing liberally from The Producers’ zany screwball and Guys and Dolls’ charming moral relativism, vaudevillian slapstick, Noël Coward-esque acerbic one-liners, Cole Porter and the French chanson, and lavish MGM setpieces.

Director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell juggles sublimely silly throwback and slick postmodern pastiche: the fourth wall is broken in between soft-shoe shuffles, and if French maids wiggle, and bellhops flea hop, they do so ironically.

Consummate entertainer Robert Lindsay is perfectly suited to this balancing act, committed to every aspect of his swindling lothario: debonair, Rat Pack suavity, exaggerated alter egos, and brief moment of weary introspection. Both crooning and dancing are understated, but effortless.


Partner-in-crime Rufus Hound embraces the rumpled oafishness of the American upstart, and while his clowning outweighs his singing, he produces some real treats, including a hysterical series of escalating reaction shots, brash hymn to consumerism and spoof ballad. Crucially, his warm comic chemistry with Lindsay gets us through the loopier narrative twists.

Katherine Kingsley is accomplished but somewhat generic as the credulous mark, while Lizzy Connolly’s storming Oklahoma! parody stops the show. Classy Samantha Bond is elegant in her Fred n Ginger romance with John Marquez’s droll Frenchman (comedy accents abound), and their morning-after dirty talk is a highlight.

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David Yazbek’s amiable score meanders, but both his witty lyrics and Jeffrey Lane’s jam-packed book have bite – at least when clearly enunciated.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has no urgent message or profound characterisation, but I defy you to leave the theatre without a grin plastered across your face.

Until November 29.

Rating: Four stars