Review: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels @ New Wimbledon Theatre

I very rarely laugh out loud in the theatre, but Dirty Rotten Scoundrelshad me giggling so many times I left with the feeling I’d just done a few sets of sit-ups.

One poor audience member succumbed to hysterics towards the end of act one and his infectious hooting set off a ‘mirthquake’ in the stalls.

The musical, based on the 1988 film of the same name, tells the story of seasoned con artist Lawrence Jameson who gleans money from rich women to fund a life of luxury in a French coastal resort.

That is until Freddy Benson, a younger competitor with cruder tactics, comes onto the scene and threatens his happy existence.

After Jameson attempts to impart some of his crooked wisdom, the men agree to a winner-takes-all bet – whoever swindles their next target gets to stay, while the other must leave town for good.

A few scenes in, I was starting to fear Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was going to be a new-fangled version of My Fair Lady where rough and ready Benson becomes a debonair double-dealer by learning the language of sophisticated swindling.

My fears were totally unfounded.

The story is pleasingly original, complete with a gloriously satisfying twist.

Michael Praed plays Jameson and masters the suave duplicitous character so well, it is hard to imagine how the West End lead Robert Lindsay could have done it any better.

His rival is played by ex-Hear’Say band member, Noel Sullivan.

He bucks the trend of most former reality TV stars, who pop up as characters of dubious calibre in Christmas pantos, and has carved out a hugely successful career for himself in the theatre.

As Benson, he delivers an absolutely sterling performance worthy of a place on the West End stage.

His flawless delivery and timing maximises comic effect and had me recalling the award-winning comedy blockbuster musical, The Book of Mormon.

The two men have a great rapport and their onstage jostling is an absolute joy to watch.

The real stand-out performance, however, goes to Phoebe Coupe who plays Jolene Oakes, a brash and, I think it’s fair to say, unhinged American oil heiress who attempts to steamroller Jameson into marriage.

The character only appears for a limited time in the first act, but her raucous rendition of the musical number Oklahoma? brought the house down and was one of the highlights of the whole show.

Her part in the following song, All about Ruprecht, also helped to make that another memorable moment.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels will be at New Wimbledon Theatre only until Saturday 24.

It is an expertly crafted and wonderfully executed production that is guaranteed to tickle your funny bone.

Pictures courtesy of Alastair Muir/New Wimbledon Theatre, with thanks

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