THEATER REVIEW: “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at the Mac-Haydn [Berkshire on Stage]
By Roseann Cane
In 1964, Marlon Brando pleasantly surprised critics and fans with his wildly funny portrayal of a goofy con artist in the film Bedtime Story. David Niven played a perfect foil – a suave, gentlemanly con artist – with Shirley Jones completing the triumvirate as their demure, naive prey.
The remake, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, appeared in 1988, with Steve Martin and Michael Caine reprising the Brando and Niven roles with Glenne Headly stepping in for Jones. (Just before I sat down to write this, I was sad to learn that the very gifted Ms. Headly had died.) The writers cleverly added a contemporary plot twist, and this version was every bit as hilarious as the original, if not more so.
2005 brought the Broadway opening of the stage version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Jeffrey Lane. Although the show received mixed reviews in the U.S., it was wildly successful in the U.K., and enjoyed a good, long run on Broadway. It was nominated for a slew of Tony and Drama Desk awards, with Norbert Leo Butz garnering one of each.
The current production at the Mac-Haydn Theatre, which opened last weekend, was my first time seeing it on the stage. The Mac is a rather small theater in the round, which presents some real challenges for a director staging a big, brassy musical, and I have been impressed on more than one occasion to observe their directors rising to the challenge, and then some. For the most part, director John Saunders did an admirable job, as did the actors he directed. The show opened with Sebastiani Romagnolo’s well-choreographed riot of singer/dancers seemingly emerging from everywhere in the house to the stage and back with effortless abandon. To make such well-executed chaos seem effortless is an impressive accomplishment.