Great theater can be created anywhere. But something special happens when a theater house not only mirrors the feeling created by the show, but enhances it as well.
This is exactly what happened with the rustic, warm Old Log Theatre's production of the silly, slap-stick comedy "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."
The musical, written by Jeffrey Lane with music by David Yazbek, is based off of the 1988 comedy starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin.
The story is set in a lavish resort along the French Riviera in the town of Beaumont Sur-Mer where overly wealthy women come to vacation and drown their sorrows, and money, into their surroundings. Which often include conman Lawrence Jameson (Peter Moore).
Jameson is a British conman who director R. Kent Knutson described as "the swindler, grafter, flim-flam man, bunco artist or lovable Harold Hill-type conman."
Along with the local police chief, Andre Thibault (James Michael Detmar), Jameson weaves tales of royalty, war and love in order to get the women to give up thousands of dollars, as he explains in the number "Giving Them What They Want."
Jameson is enjoying a luxurious lifestyle when Freddy Benson (Eric Morris) comes in to town, a brash wanna-be American con artist. Benson and Jameson butt heads from their first meeting and end up deciding that the town of Beaumont Sur-Mer is only big enough for one of them.
The two learn that an American heiress, Christine Colgate (Kaylyn Forkey), is coming into town and craft a bet that the first man to swindle $50,000 out of her will win the bet, and a spot as the resident conman.
Moore plays a refined, debonair Jameson which sharply contrasts Morris' garish and bold Benson. Moore speaks most of his songs rather than sings them, but the choice to have spoken verses shows an element of control that fits Jameson well.
Moore and Morris have a nice rhythm with each other, one that mostly likely will continue to grow throughout the show's run.
Morris' Benson is big, bold and brash. This energy plays well off of the reserved nature of Moore's Jameson and further highlights the differences between these characters. While not speaking his songs, there are no ballads to truly get a taste of what Morris may offer in a more lyrical show.
Forkey's Christine Colgate is clumsy, naïve and just sweet enough to make the audience feel bad that she will soon lose out on $50,000, but childish enough to make you not entirely despise Jameson and Benson for doing the conning.
But perhaps the best part of the show was Andre Thibault and Muriel (Jen Burleigh-Bentz).
Thibault, the French police chief, gets awoken when Jameson asks him to seduce Muriel, a middle-aged, self-sufficient, love-hungry Nebraska woman.
Both Detmar and Burleigh-Bentz had perfect delivery of their smartly written dialogue and perfect physicality of their campy characters. Their timing made every single one of their jokes hit.
Burleigh-Bentz's Muriel, who was self-aware and dripping with sarcasm but surprisingly not bitter, paired perfectly with Detmar's quick witted, curt French policeman. She also had one of the best singing voices in the show.
The show was then wrapped in a bow of intelligent humor, catchy songs, silly choreography and fantastic dancing.
It had the feel of a classic Irving Berlin musical with the wit of a 21st century writer, all displayed in one of Minnesota's oldest venues.
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is open now through May 30 at the Old Log Theatre, located at 5185 Meadville Street in Greenwood. Tickets are $16 for students and $24 - $25 for general admission. For more information on the show, or how to purchase tickets, visit the Old Log Theatre online.
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