Sunday, April 01, 2007

More dirty and rotten than good

My freelance review:
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels", now playing through April 8 at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, is a big musical wannabe. It comes close. But not close enough.

Based on the 1988 film that starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine, Scoundrels focuses on two suave con men who compete with each other as they woo and swindle wealthy women out of their fortunes on the French Riviera. The two step on each others' feet and realize that one of them has to go, so they make a bet where that the first one to bamboozle $50,000 from a young heiress stays while the other must leave town.

The pace of the show is uneven. The first act is highly episodic until the story starts to build in preparation for the second act. This allows the way-overlong second act to start out strong before things become overly episodic again.

At 2 hours and 40 minutes -- including intermission -- the show is like a visiting friend who refuses to give any indication of when -- or if -- they might be leaving.

Another notable flaw was a technical one and was actually more bothersome to me: the sets! They didn't fit the large Fox Theatre stage. It's as if they were designed for a much smaller, more intimate stage, such as the St. Louis Repertory Theatre. They felt lost and cheesy on the Fox Theatre stage.

The acting and singing was solid. And there are some good laughs, too. Be forewarned, though, of some occasional and jarring foul language that seemed out-of-place.

I really wanted to like Scoundrels. At its core, the show had a lot of potential. But its flaws ultimately overpowered things. Maybe someday there will be a revival of Scoundrels whose production is tighter, snappier and bigger.

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