Screen to stage adaptations are tough. For every hit we seem to have five flops; the music stops the action, the story becomes diluted or the humour is lost in translation. Thankfully, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels not only smoothly achieves its transition to the stage, it's also one of the best in a long time.
First produced on Broadway, the show is based on the popular 80s movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. The story is set in the French Rivera and revolves around two con men, the suave seasoned pro Lawrence Jameson (Robert Lindsay) and the newbie and altogether unrefined Freddy Benson (Rufus Hound), as the two battle to pull off the ultimate con on the naive and innocent Christine Colgate (Katherine Kingsley).
With a book by Jeffrey Lane and music and lyrics by David Yezbek, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a refreshing change to the musical scene. Lane's book is full and rich in content with great characterisation, many witty lines and a scattering of clever self-referential moments. The sophisticated score makes for a nice change to jukebox musicals packed with top 40 hits, and feels like a throwback to the golden age of Broadway musicals but with a clever and updated twist. It enhances and moves the story along with ease.
Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde) has put together a production so slick that I think it's safe to say he has some award nominations heading his way if there is any justice. This is a production of Broadway calibre and Mitchell has clearly brought out the best in everyone on the team.
The set design by Peter McKintosh (who is also responsible for the beautiful costume design) far exceeds anything I have seen recently and this is enhanced further by the stunning lighting design of Howard Harrison. To top it off the orchestra sounds magnificent; something else that is becoming increasingly rare in musical theatre. All this combines to transport us to the decadent locations flawlessly.
After seeing the show on Broadway a few years ago and raving about the cast I was hoping the UK actors would be able to match their performances, and they do with ease. Although not primarily a singer Robert Lindsay is a delight - he's suave and charming and looks like he is having a ball. Rufus Hound, who was so funny in One Man, Two Guvnors, took a bit of time to warm up but once he did he had the audience in stitches and walked away with some of the best moments in the show.
Samantha Bond plays deadpan to perfection as the glamorous Muriel Eubanks, while Lizzy Connolly very nearly steals the show as Lawrence's would-be wife Jolene. However it's the beautiful Katherine Kingsley as Christine who proves the real stand out. Her voice is near flawless and her comedy delivery outstanding.
Yes I am gushing, but with reason. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a perfect night at the theatre, and achieves the seemingly impossible by outdoing the wonderful film. All involved should be applauded for putting such thought in to every detail and creating a show that hopefully will thrill audiences when it moves in to its home at the West End.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels continues at the Manchester Opera House until 22 February
Join us on our WhatsOnStage Outing to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels on 7 April and get a top-price ticket, free programme and access to our exclusive post show Q&A for £42.50