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Schemes of laughter

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels delivers the comedy

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-07-31


As Broadway musicals celebrating the antics of people behaving badly go, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels isn’t a hard-bitten satire in the vein of, say, Chicago. Instead, it’s pure entertainment, the bad deeds and villany played completely for laughs. “This is pure fun,” says Renee Gonzales, who plays Christine Colgate. “I hope people forget every care they’ve ever had and just enjoy themselves at this show.”

It’s all tall order, maybe, but the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels certainly packs the laughs. Based on the 1988 Steve Martin/Michael Caine comedy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels features two con-men — the veteran sophisticate Lawrence Jameson (Aaron Mann) and the crass amateur Freddy Benson (Travis Grams) — working their scams on the French Riviera. “Freddy is very rough around the edges,” says Travis Grams. Indeed, one character compares Freddy to a “chimp in a suit.” “He’s still really eager about the whole con game, and wants to learn how to make lots of money at it like Lawrence, the seasoned pro, does.”

But after realizing the territory may not be big enough for the both of them, they decide on a contest — whoever can scam $50,000 off American soap opera queen Christina Colgate (Gonzales) gets to stay in town; the other has to leave.

The jokes come pretty fast, and like the two lead characters, some of the gags are a little crass and broad, while others are more witty and clever. “You’ve pretty much got every kind of humor imaginable in there,” says Grams. “The jokes come left and right, non-stop.”

Director Craig Humphrey says the show’s biggest joke might be Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ knowing tone, the wink and nudge it consistently gives its audience. “It’s ‘meta-theatrical’ in that it knows it’s a musical,” he says. “The characters sometimes talk to the audience and the orchestra pit, and it’s knowingly cheesy and over the top in some places.”

The musical version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is only about 10 years old; no massive hits came from it, probably because the “meta-theatrical” tone of the show means that out of context, some of the songs sound like the type of tune they’re meant to be parodying.

Gonzales counts one of those songs as probably her favorite; she has a special affection for a duet she sings with Grams called “Love Is My Legs.” Gonzales says that choreographer Leslie Beauchamp (who shares footwork duty on the production with Gary Lanier) encouraged her to think of it as an 80s power ballad produced by Jim Steinman. “She said ‘you’re Bonnie Tyler and he’s Meatloaf’,” laughs Gonzales. “We wanted to have fans blowing on Christine as she sang it. We couldn’t make it work, but that’s the kind of song it is. It’s just so over the top…”

Gonzales adds that the relative newness of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the fact that there’s not a particular song associated with it are marks in its favor. “This is a great musical that not everyone is familiar with,” she says. “Musicals like Les Mis… they’re great, but people know them so well. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is new and different, with some great music that a lot of people are probably hearing for the first time.”


The Fort Wayne Civic Theatre presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Arts United Center
303 East Main Street

Friday, Aug 1 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, Aug 2 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, Aug 3 at 2:00 PM — matinee

Friday, Aug 8 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, Aug 9 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, Aug 10 at 2:00 PM — matinee

Tickets:

$29 Adults
$24 Sunday Senior Matinees
$17 Age 23 and under

Prices include ArtsTix Box Office fees

For tickets, call (260) 424-5220 or go to fwcivic.org

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