Tom Hewitt, D.B. Bonds, and Laura Marie Duncan are absolutely delightful as the conniving title characters in the nifty National Tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, produced by The Dirty Rotten Producers, in association with MGM on Stage, and playing Feb. 1-4 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium as part of the Broadway Series South series. Tuesday evening, this trio of consummate comedians combined with a strong supporting cast and an exuberant orchestra conducted by Steven Bishop to bring the opening-night audience to its feet for a hearty standing ovation.
Tom Hewitt is wonderfully wicked as veteran British conman Lawrence Jameson, an impeccably dressed and coifed gray-haired fox gleefully plundering the plush henhouse of the luxury resort hotel and casino Beaumont sur Mer on the French Riviera. Jameson, who frequently poses as a Prince-in-need from some obscure and unpronounceable European nation, is really a prince among thieves, with a luxurious seaside villa as testimony to his prowess as a seducer and flimflammer of wealthy women.
Hewitt is smooth, suave, and oh-so-continental as Lawrence Jameson, whereas D.B. Bonds is gawky, loose of limb, and invariably slobbish in attire as small-time American bunco artist Freddy Benson, a mop-topped penny-ante grifter who always looks like he dressed in the dark. Bonds, who bears a certain resemblance to TV star Harry Anderson of “Night Court” fame, is a hoot as Freddy, who is the epitome of the rude and crude Ugly American. Indeed, Lawrence Jameson—Freddy’s erstwhile rival in fleecing female hotel guests in this playground for the rich—fears that Benson’s crass overtures to well-heeled marks will alert the women that a confidence game is afoot, and so he makes a bet with Freddy: The first one who can get a woman to fork over $50,000 stays, and the loser must move on to not-so-green pastures elsewhere.
Laura Marie Duncan is a treat as beautiful and brainy American soap queen Christine Colgate, a Cincinnati, Ohio girl now embarked on the European tour of a lifetime. Like Hewitt and Bonds, she has superb comic timing, and proves equally adept at delivering songwriter David Yazbek’s lively lyrics with brio.
Drew McVety is a stitch as corrupt local police chief—and Lawrence Jameson’s eager-to-please partner in greed --Andre Thibault, and Kim Shriver is amusing as wealthy Omaha, Nebraska matron Muriel Eubanks. But Paige Pardy is a real scene-stealer who turns a cameo performance as Jolene Oakes, a wild child from rural Oklahoma, into one of the show’s most unforgettable characters.
Director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who brilliantly staged the Broadway version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, have injected considerable pizzazz into the traveling version of this Tony Award®-winning 2005 musical based upon the 1988 motion picture starring Michael Caine as Lawrence Jameson, Steve Martin as Freddy Benson, and Glenne Headly as Janet Colgate. Musical director Ted Sperling, orchestrator Harold Wheeler, set designer David Rockwell, lighting designer Kenneth Posner, costume designer Gregg Barnes, and sound designer Acme Sound Partners—all of whom performed the same roles on the Great White Way—all do yeoman’s work on the national tour, whose turntable set keeps the “game” perpetually in motion.
Broadway Series South presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Thursday-Friday, Feb. 1-2, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 3, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 4, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $36-$76. Progress Energy Box Office: 919/831-6060.Group Rates (for groups of 20 or more): 919/857-4565. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/. Broadway Show: http://www.dirtyrottenscoundrelsthemusical.com/ [inactive 7/08]. The Tour: http://www.dirtyrottentour.com/ [inactive 9/09]. Internet Movie Database: http://imdb.com/title/tt0095031/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=383314. Tom Hewitt: http://pamij.tripod.com/Tom-Hewitt.html, http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=45056, and http://imdb.com/name/nm0382095/.