There’s something incredibly exciting about Manchester audiences seeing a show before it opens in the West End. More often than not us Northerners have to wait till a production leaves Theatreland’s capital and goes on tour to catch a glimpse of what the show has to offer but since ATG’s Palace Theatre & Opera House commitment that ‘Manchester Gets It First’ - we have been treated to a number of UK premieres including hit musical Ghost. Now it’s time for us Mancunians to be the virgin crowd to deliver their verdict on Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as it flies into the Opera House for two weeks before moving on to Aylesbury then taking up home at the Savoy Theatre London.
Based on the 1988 movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin the show centres around two conmen who make a living wooing women and relieving them of all their money. Set in the French Rivera the show transfers well to the stage with a an art deco set design by Peter McKintosh which oozes all the glamour and sophistication the South of France has to offer.
Taking on the Caine and Martin roles are a pair of familiar faces to TV fans and theatre-goers alike, My Family’s Robert Lindsay and Celebrity Juice regular Rufus Hound. The key to the success of this show was always going to depend on the partnership working between Lindsay and Hound especially after such a successful onscreen pairing in the film. Jerry Mitchell has struck gold here with his casting and Lindsay and Hound are a great double act each complimenting the other with neither trying to bay for centre stage.
Lindsay shows exactly why he’s so well respected in the theatre world giving a polished and assured performance as the suave Laurence Jameson. He glides through David Yezbek’s musical numbers Give Them What They Want and All About Ruprecht like the true pro that he is.
Rufus Hound is genius in his portrayal of Freddy Benton, a larger than life American who wants Great Big Stuff and to learn the tricks of the trade from Lindsay. The role gives him the chance to showcase his comedic talents and also reveals tuneful vocals that fans would be pleasantly surprised to hear.
Equally outstanding is Katherine Kingsley, fresh from her success in the West End’s Singin’ in the Rain. She plays wealthy soap queen Christine Colgate, prey for the conmen duo and gives them a run for their money in more ways than one. Kingsley delivers some stunning vocals along with putting every ounce of energy into the role, proving you don’t need to be a ‘name’ to be a hit with the crowd; you just have to be brilliant.
There’s a sweet subplot held together by the uber-classy Samantha Bond and John Marquez as Surrey socialite Muriel and Parisian personal assistant Andre. The duo may not be on stage as much as the aforementioned trio but the times they do appear are reminiscent of an old Hollywood musical where they dance off into the sunset and play out their charming love story.
Watch out for a great cameo from Lizzy Connolly as one of Lindsay’s conquests –an Oklahoma cowgirl called Joely Oakes. Connolly sets the stage alight with her over the top Dolly Parton-esq banter and frantic gun-toting dance routine which is a rootin’ tootin’ treat!
The thing that sets this show apart from those that have come and gone is class. The routines are slick, the dialogue is laugh out loud hilarious and the cast are tremendously talented. Plus, it’s not often you get a production where the musical numbers and the plot are both strong-when you do, like in the case of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, you want to grab it with both hands and never let go (or in other words watch it time and time again).
Director and Choreographer Jerry Mitchell has struck gold here with his UK revival of this Broadway musical and, having won acclaim and awards in the past for his involvement in shows like Legally Blonde and Kinky Boots, he may well have to make space for more silverware.
This musical is definitely one to watch and if the roaring response from the Manchester audience is anything to go by then the West End may just have bagged itself a new hit! Catch it now before you have to shell out on overpriced train fare to get yourself a glimpse.
Runs at Manchester’s Opera House till Saturday 22nd February