“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” – SODS, The Palace Theatre, Southend – 29/03/17
Whether or not you have seen the 1988 film starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, you will not be disappointed with the musical version. I didn’t manage to see this while it was on in London or on the tour, so knowing the Essex Amateur premiere was taking place I was both curious and excited to see what it had to offer.
The first thing that struck me were the LED screens which made up the main set replacing the tabs either side and the Cyc cloth at the back. The impact was impressive with strong vibrant images which immediately portrayed the many locations of the storyline and allowing for a super quick scene changes, however having said that there were a few black voids where furniture was still being moved which could have done with more music to cover it but this was opening night so I am confident these will be remedied as the run progresses.
SODS were lucky to have some very strong leads in this show especially with Scott Roche as Lawrence Jameson and David Gillett as Freddy Benson who both rarely seemed to leave the stage. Scott had great panache, stage presence and style and was completely believable as the suave con man and I particularly liked the ease of his performance on stage however, for me I found David Gillett compelling. His facial expressions and body language were so well executed – it never looked over done or ‘hammy’ and while there was a tiny nod to Steve Martin’s style, the character was completely his own and he squeezed every nuance out of it.
‘Giving them what they Want’ between these two conmen was Heather Cooper as Christine Colgate. Christine was funny, sweet and has a voice which was perfectly suited to this score. The three of them together was a great trio.
However, there were also great performances from Annette McGibbon as Muriel Eubanks and Ian Scoging as Andre Thibault and Laura Gilbert as Jolene Oakes.
Laura was deliciously ‘out there’ with a larger than life personality and I particularly liked her with the two scoundrels in “All About Ruprecht” as she never once let the characterization drop. Annette and Ian also gave strong characterizations and although I found “Like Zis/Like Zat” a little disjointed as a number they worked well together as a couple.
All the chorus work and dance routines were well executed and I particularly like the 4 male dancers who really pulled out the stops and the steps which is always a pleasure to see.
I can’t deny there were a few opening night teething problems a balcony which appeared in the middle of the train station which was swiftly removed and some forgotten routines and blank faces but this did not in any way diminish the enjoyment of the piece. My one comment was It all sounded too amplified and rather loud which meant that some diction was lost which is a shame as for me the most important thing is for the audience to hear what is going on, to get all the jokes and follow the story.
However, I came out of the theatre humming the melodies to songs that I hadn’t really heard before and smiling to myself at many of the visual gags that had taken place. I am still in awe of David Gillet’s excellent wheelchair manipulation and his use of the brakes as there were moments when I wondered if he would roll too far in one direction or another or perhaps off the edge of the stage completely but no – he was in complete control – there must be an award for that alone surely!
If you haven’t got tickets to see this production, then you must get online immediately and book some. It’s fun, endearing and most importantly a brilliantly entertaining show to see.