Delightful 'Scoundrels' Leaves 'Em Laughing

By Bridgette M. Redman

The Great Escape Stage Company is giving them what they want with "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." The loyal audience is filling up the place and getting treated to a fun musical that tickles the funny bone.

Directed by Randy Lake, this Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek musical is based on the film of the same name. It's soundly plotted, filled with catchy music and has just enough twists to keep things interesting all the way through.

Leading the cast as Lawrence Jameson, the smooth, experienced con artist who excels at relieving women of their jewels and fortunes, is Alan Elliott. He is suave and debonair, and is clearly at the top of his game. His singing is strong and he shows off his vocal variety by being equally powerful in such songs as "All About Ruprecht" and "Love Sneaks In."

Juxtaposed against the James Bond of Crime is Freddy Benson, who is as crude as oil and a petty-ante con man. He is portrayed by Timothy Lake, who, if not as young-looking as the script indicates he is, makes up for it in his energy and commitment to the role. He brings a new level of absurd to the comedy and blends well vocally with Elliott in their many duets. He is also hilarious in his portrayal of Ruprecht and in the would-be love ballad "Love is My Legs."

Vanessa Banister brings freshness and innocence to the part of Christine Colgate, the Soap Queen of America and the "mark" the two con men place a bet over. She's wholesome and innocent, and more than a little klutzy. Banister plays right into the hands of the two con men, even as they both try to keep her from letting the plots of the other succeed. Her voice soars as she sings "Nothing is Too Wonderful to Be True."

The two supporting characters of Andre Thibault and Muriel Banks played by Gayland Spaulding and Kerry Wilson respectively add to the fun of the evening with Andre's snobby assistance to Lawrence and Muriel's persistence at continuing to help the "prince" with his revolution. Wilson sings beautifully with "What Was a Woman to Do?" while Spaulding is featured in "Chimp in a Suit." But it is when the two of them are brought together in the second act singing "Like Zis, Like Zat," that Spaulding and Wilson shine in a very sweet number that shows both of their strengths and the characters' vulnerabilities.

Debbie Culver makes a fun appearance as Jolene Oakes of Oklahoma, who is almost a little more than Lawrence can handle.

Filling out all the other roles in constantly changing costumes to provide full background choruses to song after song was an ensemble of seven people. They were energetic and managed some complex dance numbers on a very small stage that had them elbow to elbow.

On the Saturday night of opening weekend, they were having some lighting difficulties that resulted in an elongated intermission while the lights were reprogrammed for the second act. However, Sam Jones' design was effective and the problems were fixed.

Worthy of note, especially for the ensemble but also for the upscale wares of the main cast, was the costuming credited to Susan Frook, Debbie Culver and the cast. Nearly every song called for new costumes, from French maids to Okie square dancers to tourists to luxury hotel staff to ball gowns.

Lake guides a cast that works effectively well as an ensemble, and therefore creates an evening of entertainment that tickles the funny bone and leaves the audience laughing and humming. "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is a crowd pleaser, and Great Escape does justice to it.


'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels'

Great Escape Stage Company, 155 W. Michigan Ave., Marshall. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through June 14. 2 hours, 39 minutes. $12-15. 269-781-2700.

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