The main characters of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels are, by any objective measure, bad guys. Criminals. Con artists. Charlatans. But there’s something oddly… lovable about them. You don’t hate them, even as they swindle people out of their cash. But you don’t exactly root for them, either. You’re just glad you get to spend time watching— and laughing at— them.
Toledo audiences will get a chance to spend a few hours with the characters of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels beginning May 31 with a production of the Broadway musical at the Toledo Rep. Directed by Debra Ross Calabrese, the show will transport audiences to the French Riviera to watch its leads compete in an effort to prove who is the best at hustling.
“They’re swindlers, and they’re trying to swindle an American heiress out of $50,000,” Calabrese said. “And there’s a very suave and debonair, educated con man named Lawrence, and there’s a— for lack of a better term— less refined con man, an American whose name is Freddy. He’s like small-time at everything.”
Give them what they want
Based on the 1988 movie starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine— which was in turn based on a 1964 movie starring Marlon Brando and David Niven— the musical version made its debut on Broadway in 2005 with John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz in the lead roles. (Butz won a Tony for his performance.) While most of the show remains faithful to the 1988 film’s plot, it also takes a chance to expand upon it.
“They go into more depth on some of the other characters, which really rounds out things,” Calabrese said. “They really took Lawrence’s right-hand man, who is the French police chief, and they give him a great background and you see a lot of things happen with him, also, where you didn’t really see that as much in the movie.”
One of the most distinctive facets of the musical version of this material is, well, the music— full to the brim with bouncy, jazzy tunes and genuinely witty lyrics. The score was written by David Yazbek, a Tony-award winning composer who also wrote the music and lyrics for musicals like The Full Monty and a new Broadway version of Tootsie.
“I also choreograph, so I always appreciate the big dance numbers,” Calabrese said. “The music is one of those things— a lot of people may not have heard about this musical, but I promise when you walk out you’ll start humming a lot of the songs. They’re very catchy, you can really relate to them right away.”
Great big stuff
The feel of the show is augmented by the sets, designed by veteran theater designer Paul Wesley Alday, who also crafted the setting for the Rep’s recent production of Fences.
“His sets are gorgeous— of course, it’s the French Riviera. So I’m letting him take care of that side, and they look great. You won’t be disappointed in that,” Calabrese said.
The only disappointment area audiences may have, in fact, comes in the form of the dreaded S-word— spoilers. As anyone who’s seen the original movie knows, the story has some big twists, and Calabrese hopes everyone has a chance to see the show without those moments being ruined for them.
“Just like the Avenger movie— don’t give it away!” Calabrese said. “Don’t give the ending away, if anything, just come to see the plot twists and the end, because I think you’ll be surprised. It’s just so clever.”
May 31-June 16
$25, general | $23, seniors
$15, student | $12, children.
The Toledo Repertoire Theatre | 16 10th St.
419-243-9277 | Toledorep.org