THEATER REVIEW: “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” shine bright at MiraCosta

How many con men can tiny Riviera resort town Beaumont-sur-Mer support?

That’s the question at hand in the rollicking musical “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” playing through Nov. 20 at MiraCosta College.

The Old Globe’s Jack O’Brien took this show to Broadway in 2005, where it got 11 Tony nominations. Now MiraCosta gives us a local production that makes up in quality what it may lack in Broadway glitz.

Until now, Lawrence Jameson (Patrick McBride), tall, debonair and oozing charm and class, and his partner, local police chief André Thibault (Bernard X. Kopsho) have had the field to themselves. Whispers of “the prince” and his charity work “to save the children” in some unnamed country have for years served to separate rich female tourists from their money.

When the arrival of brassy and vulgar American con Freddy (“The Jackal”) Benson (Tom Andrew) threatens to cut into Jameson’s take, various dirty tricks ensue until the two call a truce. In fact, Freddy takes a few lessons from the local pro, one provided by Muriel (Deborah Dodaro). Lawrence charms her out of first her jewelry (telling her it detracts from her great beauty) and then a large check “for the children.”

“They’ll think the money well-spent,” he sings, “when in fact it paid the rent on your chateau.”

Freddy just wants “someone to love me for my money” and, in a nod to the student crowd, notes that with enough bread “I could finally afford a college textbook!”

Soon, though, Lawrence decides it’s time for Freddy to move on and stop encroaching on his territory. Freddy thinks it should go the other way, so they decide to settle it by betting who will first extract $50,000 from a mutually agreed-upon mark.

Jeffrey Lane’s terrific book and songs with some of the cleverest lyrics around (both by David Yazbek) make this show an absolute delight, and Eric Bishop, MiraCosta’s chair of Theatre and Film, directs a terrific cast with a fine eye for stage pictures and comic possibilities. This show is so good I didn’t even miss the live orchestra.

Patrick McBride as “the prince” and Tom Andrew as the “deliciously low” Freddy play wonderfully off each other as the moneygrubbing rivals. They are, in fact, every bit as good as the Broadway pair (Norbert Leo Butz, who won the Tony as Freddy, and John Lithgow as Lawrence).

Freddy is double-cast. Tom Andrew plays him once more, at the Saturday matinee. Reed Willard will play Freddy the rest of the week.

Bernard X. Kopsho is a hoot as André, the French-inflected but oh-so-sophisticated crooked cop.

The ladies are excellent as well. I particularly loved the voice of Dodaro, but Meg Johnson’s down-home boots-shod Texan is a hoot and so is Virginia Gregg’s Christine Colgate, the “All-American Soap Queen.”

Kudos also to Andrew Layton for a fine, versatile set, and to Dave Massey for his sprightly choreography.

Amber Hamzeh’s costumes and Jamie Leodones’ makeup and hair designs add to the look as well. And let’s not forget sound and lighting designers Bryon Andersen and Paul Canaletti.

I don’t know what it is about bad boys that makes them fun to watch. Take a look and decide for yourself.

The details

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” plays through Nov. 20 at the Mira Costa College Theatre, One Barnard Drive, Building 2000, Oceanside.

Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets call (760) 795-6815 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.