Bubbly and Bawdy DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Kelsey Theatre

by Arlene Price Kohler

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, the Broadway Musical, written by Jeffrey Lane with music and lyrics by David Yazbek has an interesting history. It opened on Broadway in 2005 and garnered Tony nominations for best musical score and book adaptation. It used as its source the film of the same name, written in 2002, starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine. The film is an updated version of an earlier 1964 movie entitled ” A Bedtime Story” starring David Niven and Marlon Brando, as the small time con man and Shirley Jones. Interestingly, the 2002 film was originally conceived as a project for Mick Jagger and David Bowie after the huge success of their video “Dancing in the Streets” in 1985. After the initial development they dropped out and Michael Caine and Steve Martin were cast.

Maurer Productions OnStage at Kelsey Theatre opens with a great set. The basic structure looks like the Riviera, quite chic and just slightly garish. The metallic leaved palm trees add just the right touch of sleazy. A fine juxtaposition for the two con men, a silky slick veteran and a rather raw rookie, around whom the story line centers. It is all just a little tongue in cheek. John Maurer has executed the set design and he has done an excellent job matching the set to the script.

Dan Petrovich of Macungie, PA and William Mercado of Hightstown, NJ are the two con men competing in DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, playing at the Kelsey Theatre in West Windsor, NJ through May 22.

The story line is full of clever twists and turns. The dialogue is snappy…a lot of fast paced quips. Even the songs have one liners. Some of the jokes can be bawdy and the script is full of innuendo. While none of the bubbly melodies are particularly memorable the words certainly are!

Mercer County Community College seems to consistently attract some of the area’s finest talent. This show is no exception. John Maurer does a great job casting the show. His ensemble gives a nice performance. His very talented leads really carry this show.

Daniel Petrovich is very convincing as Lawrence Jameson, a suave and silky veteran con man; good looking, charming, aged to perfection. He plays his character with just the right blend of sophistication and melancholy. Spot on! He manages to hold his own against William Mercado as Freddy Benson, a small time con artist. Mercado gets my vote as the stand out performance of this show. He knows just when to pull back leaving it hilarious rather than grotesque and offensive. His acting seems effortless.

Scott Karlin is the crooked French Policeman who is in cahoots with Lawrence. His accent was put to good use with his excellent delivery of some very zingy lines. Kathy Liebars plays his love interest, Muriel Eubanks. Ms. Liebars possesses a nice voice, good acting skills and sports a wardrobe of elegant looking clothes befitting her character, thanks to Ruth Rittmann, the costumer. My only criticism would be that she looks too youthful for the role. I think she would look a bit more mature and a lot more elegant with an updo rather than wearing her hair down and perhaps adding some sparkly jewelry. Actually this would be true of the female ensemble as well, especially in the opening number. It would add a lot to the overall perception of it being a wealthy resort setting.

And speaking of the opening number…it was splendid…the cast was attractively dressed (sparkling) and the choreography excellent, thanks to Jane Coult, the choreographer who does a great job throughout the show. Her talent shines throughout the show but especially in the opening and the hoe down number.

Jennifer Barron as Jolene Oakes, the Oklahoma heiress, makes the most of her character, a kind of Annie Oakely with class. She has great stage presence and terrific voice and was just plain fun to watch.

Emily Miller Huddell is delightful as Christine Colgate, squeaky clean, charmingly geeky and slightly awkward until the end when she does a great transformation.

Ruth Rittmann has provided lots of nice costumes, and I mean lots. There are porters, conductors, maids, a few French sailors, a charmingly dressed French musician and a nun, as well as a handful of ‘ritzy’ looking ladies and gentlemen and more than a handful of leads. A lot of work and all well done. I especially liked the way she dressed Jolene, the Oakie heiress, as well as Muriel. The nifty jumpsuit she wears that converts to a gown is quite clever.

The music sounds swell as befits the show thanks to a competent group of musicians.

The show is full of funny, crass physical humor at its finest.  The salty language and adult situations might not be suitable for the younger set but adults should enjoy the snappy dialogue, the many, many funny lines, as well as some great singing and dancing.

by Jeffrey Lane
Music and lyrics by David Yazbek
Directed by John M. Maurer
May 13 – 22, 2011
Maurer Productions OnStage
at Kelsey Theatre
Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ

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