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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Arizona Broadway Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent review of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Nathan David Smith and Steve McCoy
Photo by Alexxis Grant, Timeless Present Photos
Based on the 1988 hit film comedy which starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a witty musical comedy that focuses on two con men who practice their craft along the French Riviera. With excellent leads, sure-footed direction, and wonderful creative elements, Arizona Broadway Theatre's production of this humorous show is a winner.

The plot centers on a pair of charming conmen who try to out con each other. The suave and debonair Lawrence Jameson is basically blackmailed to take under his wing the younger and bumbling buffoon Freddy Benson and together they swindle their way through several unsuspecting marks in the south of France. However, when they wager a bet on which one can be the first to extract $50,000 from the young American heiress Christine Colgate, and discover they both have feelings for her, they find that they may not be quite as good at the con game as they believe they are.

David Yazbek's score features witty lyrics and compositions comprising jazzy and upbeat tunes; Jeffrey Lane's book includes plenty of fun twists and turns with fleshed out characters that you care about, even though they are conmen. However, not all of the songs are successful or memorable and while the book is fun, the lead female character Christine doesn't appear until halfway into the first act which is when the show's main plot finally takes off.

Steve McCoy is wonderful as the debonair, appealing, and smooth-talking conman Lawrence who knows exactly what he has to do to woo the rich, bored women he meets in order to give them what they want while also getting (or taking) some of their money or jewelry for himself in return. McCoy's wit is appropriately extra-dry, his mannerisms distinguished, and his line delivery is infused with care and thought, which makes Lawrence a three-dimensional man you fully understand.

As Freddy, Nathan David Smith's goofy grin and comical manners perfectly bring this zany and unpredictable goofball to comical life. Smith exudes charisma and a big dose of insanity, making Freddy a warm, carefree, impulsive and lovable character. McCoy and Smith play off each other very well and both have wonderful signing voices that shine, whether it's Smith excelling on the witty, humorous "Great Big Stuff" and "Love is My Legs," or McCoy having a touching moment on his romantic song about realizing he's falling in love, "Love Sneaks In." Both are playful and humorous in one of the funniest numbers in the score, "All About Ruprecht."

Kelsey Seaman is excellent as Christine. Her physical comedy skills and comic timing are sharp, which work well for this klutzy yet adorable and warm woman. Her singing voice is gorgeous and her delivery of her numerous songs is exceptional. As Muriel Eubanks, a woman Lawrence seduces but who ends up staying around much longer than his other conquests, Carolyn McPhee is elegant and refined, with a beautiful singing voice and a warm and solid stage presence. Michael Kreutz is equally good as André Thibault, Lawrence's right-hand man, and Alicia Babin is a hoot as Jolene, the young woman from Oklahoma that Lawrence finds isn't as easy to outwit as he'd hoped. The large ensemble do good work and deliver Kurtis Overby's appealing and varied choreography very well.

Clayton Phillips' clear direction allows for the cast to create realistic characters while also letting the abundance of humor and charm in the plot to shine through. Jim Hunter's scenic design includes a large double staircase that doubles as both Lawrence's home and the lobby of Christine's hotel and while the set is fairly static, the scene changes and choreography provide fluid movement throughout. While the costumes are rentals, they are good and character specific. Bret Reese's lighting design is lovely and varied, with a range of colors, hues and shadows that help evoke the warm daytime scenes and romantic nighttime moments. The sound design by Jesse Worley delivers clear vocals and, while the musical underscore are tracks, they are quite good, with the cast's vocals rich and warm under Michael Ursua's music direction.

Witty and wacky, but also full of warmth with characters you feel for and a plot with many twists, turns, and madcap moments, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a hilarious and fast musical full of fun and foolishness. With a wonderful cast, clear direction that makes the comedy pop, and rich creative elements, Arizona Broadway's production is witty, warm, and simply splendid.

Also of note, ABT's chef David Young has crafted a themed menu for this show with inspired entrees and desserts and also some of the best tasting croissants I've ever had. While their food is always top notch, it's a nice touch when ABT has their dinner menu mirror the locale of the show, as it truly elevates the dinner theatre experience.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels runs through June 4, 2023, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call 623-776-8400.

Direction: Clayton Phillips
Choreography: Kurtis Overby
Music Direction: Michael Ursua
Scenic Design: Jim Hunter
Wig Design/Coordination: Chris Zizzo
Sound Design: Jesse Worley
Lighting Design: Bret Reese
Prop Coordination: Jamie Hohendorf-Parnell
Stage Managers: Leigh Treat & Nico Rossetti
Executive Producer: Kiel Klaphake
Casting and Artistic Producer: Cassandra Klaphake

Lawrence Jamieson: Steve McCoy
Freddy Benson: Nathan David Smith
Christine Colgate: Kelsey Seaman
Muriel Eubanks: Carolyn McPhee
André Thibault: Michael Kreutz
Jolene Oaks: Alicia Babin
Ensemble: Savanna Worthington, Jeleesa Monet Levy, Sarah Warrick, Elizabeth L. Worley, Mariel Harris, Brody Wurr, TJ Shelton, Corry J. Ethridge, Bruno Streck Rodrigues, Serena Kozusko, Gino Cardoni, Kyle Munson