AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Jeffrey Lane
Directed by Jack O'Brien
Presented by American Musical Theatre of San Jose
At the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose / (888) 455-7469

Reviewed by Judy Richter

The national tour of the 2005 Broadway hit "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," nominated for 11 Tonys, has reached American Musical Theatre of San Jose, providing a humorous, sometimes hilarious and ultimately long evening of entertainment. The 1988 MGM film has been adapted into a musical by composer-lyricist David Yazbek and book writer Jeffrey Lane with direction by Jack O'Brien.

It tells the story of two very different con men -- the older, suave, sophisticated Lawrence Jameson (Tom Hewitt) and the younger, disheveled, uncouth Freddy Benson (D.B. Bonds). They meet on a train, then run into each other again in a resort town on the French Riviera. They quickly learn they can't work together and make a bet that the first one to swindle $50,000 from a young soap heiress, Christine Colgate (Laura Marie Duncan), will stay, and the other will leave. As they compete, each must think faster than the other and try to outmaneuver his opponent to mostly amusing results. Of course there's a twist to the ending.

One of Lawrence's previous targets, the wealthy, older Muriel Eubanks (Hollis Resnik) shows up, too, but his sidekick, Andre Thibault (Drew McVety), the corrupt but unflappable police chief, sidetracks her with wooing. Another potential target, Jolene Oakes (Paige Pardy), an Annie Oakley type from Oklahoma, proves to be too much for either Lawrence or Freddy to handle although they do get her to leave.

All of the actors are more than equal to their tasks. The limber-bodied, rubber-faced Bonds gets the most laughs as Freddy, but his antics veer into slapstick. The ensemble is polished, creating numerous background characters and dancing to Jerry Mitchell's choreography. David Rockwell's set (enhanced by Kenneth Posner's lighting), works well, and Gregg Barnes' costumes are noteworthy.

Yazbek's music, overseen by conductor Steven Bishop, draws on varied sources, including rap, while Lane's book is loaded with allusions to other musicals such as "Oklahoma," "Annie Get Your Gun," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "My Fair Lady." It probably also has allusions to pop culture and TV, but they eluded me.

Some scenes go on too long, especially a morning-after conversation between Muriel and Andre, and some of the jokes and plot devices are tasteless. "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" may allude to some of the great musicals, but it hardly ranks with them.

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