For a con to work, the players have to be as smooth as silk and also rise above challenges to get what they are after. At Sunday’s matinee of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by MainStage ILC, the show didn’t quite get its own con game off the ground. While a solid production, the show suffered through a sluggish run and low-energy audience.
Scoundrels is theater candy written for laughs by Jeffrey Lane with music and lyrics by David Yazbeck. Based on the 1998 film of the same name, nothing about the show declares itself to be more than a good time. Thus, the show should be an easy sell.
For this performance, the production, directed by Dennis Canright, never seemed to lift off from its opening number “Give Them What They Want” and then kept an even keel to the end. A live orchestra, a solid set and the large cast all had the makings to deliver a good time, but it just missed the mark. Additionally, the audience was reserved in both its applause and laughs. Guessing here, but to balance the energy, the cast seemed to overcompensate.
Scott Bardin played the seasoned con man Lawrence Jameson residing in the south of France working his way into women’s hearts and then their jewels. Visually, the tall and handsome Bardin was perfect for the role, but at this performance, he often felt restrained which took away from the character’s expertise and suave. Clint Gilbert was wild with energy playing the greedy protege Freddy Benson. His counterpoint created a good chemistry with Bardin that helped with the vibes. Briana Berk finished the lead trio as Christine Colgate, the “Soap Queen” who immediately catches the eye of the two men. Berk does gullible quite well in her role, but by the time of her introduction, Scoundrels simply hadn’t sunk its hooks in.
As the chief of police Andre Thibault, Jason Philip Solis was able to cut through any sluggish energy with a charming and funny performance. Stephanie Felton did the same as Muriel Eubanks and both being scene partners often, scenes and songs with the two were magnetic.
Kelly McCain’s choreography was a big highlight working magic with a diverse cast of bodies that all stepped up to complicated steps and moves. Wendy Searcy-Woode’s set was opulent without being garish and Michael A. Robinson crafted luxe looks for the cast.
Lane and Yazbeck’s story and songs were also a factor. The story itself was fine, but some of the songs were just awful. Kudos to Gilbert for really pushing to sell “Great Big Stuff.” No tunes were memorable and often felt like forced pieces to extend the show or add another song like “All About Ruprecht” or even “Dirty Rotten.” Rowan Gilvie was a delight performing “Oklahoma” as Jolene Oakes, the rich country gal who may have conned Jameson into marriage.
The talent was there, but the stars didn’t seem to align for this matinee performance of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The show runs through Nov. 18.