When the pros pull off the cons in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the laughs push the limits. CATCO's brash production, which opened Friday night in the Riffe Center's Studio One Theatre, launches the company's 2014-15 season on a highly entertaining note.
When the pros pull off the cons in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the laughs push the limits.
CATCO’s brash production, which opened Friday night in the Riffe Center’s Studio One Theatre, launches the company’s 2014-15 season on a highly entertaining note.
Such a big Broadway musical was a relative rarity before Producing Director Steven Anderson took over the troupe’s leadership. Such a broadening of CATCO fare is more than welcome when performed with such sly charm.
Anderson enhances the two-act show with a more intimate staging that brings out the shifting relationships in the fanciful and sometimes cartoonish story of an odd-couple pair of con men eager to bilk rich women on the French Riviera.
Making the most of a deft nine-member cast, Anderson keeps the tables turning and the roulette-wheel-set spinning with wit and warmth.
With the colorful two-level scenic design by Britton Mauk, rainbow costumes by Marcia Hain and dreamy lighting by Wes Calkin, the show becomes a kaleidoscope.
Two central performances — better make that three, if only clear in retrospect — anchor the story in zestful camaraderie.
Joe Bishara has fun unleashing his libido as Freddy, a crude and lewd grifter who becomes the junior partner in the pair’s often-at-odds schemes.
Bishara is at his best in Great Big Stuff, an exuberant number about the lust for more.
Matt Clemens exudes smoothness and class as the older Lawrence, a veteran ladykiller who looks down with mixed feelings on Freddy’s vulgarity while also seeing a reflection of his own younger self.
Lawrence, his French ally Andre (Todd Covert, generating his own share of skeptical Gallic humor) and the ensemble sing Give Them What They Want early on with a lilting and insinuating promise.
With that song, composer-lyricist David Yazbek and author Jeffrey Lane lay down a marker for a delicious game of seduction. And they keep the promise by seducing the audience.
But it’s often the women who make this show so much fun.
Liz Wheeler shows off the strongest vocals as Christine Colgate, the Cincinnati-based soap queen. (Several other Ohio references spark laughs.) Wheeler pairs up with Bishara to belt out Nothing Is Too Wonderful to be True, a romantic and manic duet good enough to deserve a reprise.
Susan Bunsold Wilson reveals unsuspected depths as goodhearted Muriel while Alexa Joy Rybynski exudes peppy Oklahoma flair as Jolene.
The musical is suggested for mature audiences because of strong innuendo and brief profanity.
Yet, its broad slapstick, upbeat choreography and cheerful portraits of con men (and women) with hearts of gold almost transforms Scoundrels into a family affair about the power of love and friendship to overcome baser motives.
CATCO will present Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at 8 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. July 31 to Aug. 2, 2 p.m. Aug. 3, 11 a.m. Aug. 6, 8 p.m. Aug. 7-9 and 2 p.m. August 10 in the Riffe Center’s Studio One Theatre, 77 S. High St. Tickets cost $11.50 to $45. Call 614-469-0939 or visit www.catcoistheatre.org