‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ at Elden Street Players by Julia L. Exline

Elden Street Players presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a decadent and hilarious musical with a bouncy score by David Yazbek and a laugh-filled book by Jeffrey Lane. The fun-filled production is directed by Michael Kharfen, and has Musical Direction by Scott Richards. When an established con man meets a talented young schemer, a newfound friendship turns into rivalry. Fun, silly, and exaggerated, this lighthearted production is a great pick for the summer!

On bed: Annie Ermlick (Christine). Front row of choir: L to R: Becca Harney, Lisa Freese, Bri Eul and Holly McDade. Back Row L to R: Jerry Hoffman, Ivan Davila, Karl Meier, and Patrick Graham. Photography by David Segal.

The show looks terrific! Set Designer James Villarrubia drapes the stage with the elegance of the French Riviera in the summertime. Tile floors, stone steps, and arched walkways give the setting a chic, polished ambiance, and a sandy shore dotted with seaside homes can be seen painted in the background. A garden takes up a corner of the stage for outdoor scenes, and the orchestra, made up of an impressive twelve people playing six different instruments, sits just out of sight, tucked behind a posh balcony. Different props are moved on and offstage throughout the production for other settings as well, such as a craps table for a casino and a bed for a hotel room.

Lighting Design by AnnMarie Castrigno keeps the tone lighthearted, and sound by Sam Harris helps make scenes more believable through cues such as ocean breezes, crickets, and shattering objects, amongst others. Costume Designers Judy Whelihan and Kathy Dunlap dress them for the part in bright, summery dresses, jewels, and sharp suits.

Patrick McMahan (André) and Tom Flatt (Lawrence). Photography by David Segal.

Con artists Lawrence (a suave Tom Flatt) and his French ‘bodyguard’ André (Patrick McMahan) descend the scene to do what they do best: trick wealthy women out of their fortunes using different aliases, ranging from powerful to pitiable. Playing off of a woman’s naïveté and sympathy, Lawrence successfully pulls Muriel (Janette Moman) into his scam, who beautifully laments this fact in her song, “What Was a Woman to Do?” Lawrence then meets Freddy (Nathan Tatro) a crass, foolish man who, despite these qualities, is able to charm women out of their money, though not at Lawrence’s accomplished level. Freddy begs a hesitant Lawrence to take him on as a protégée, and sings an entertaining and outrageous song called “Great Big Stuff” about the lifestyle he could have if he learned from Lawrence (Tatro delivers a manic and high-energy performance of the song is one of the highlights of the production).

André rebuffs Freddy with a silly number called “Chimp in A Suit, (which McMahan charmingly and humorously performs). Deciding that the area was simply not big enough for both of their scheming, the duo decides on a bet: the first to scam $50,000 out of a woman is victorious, and the other must leave town. Enter Christine (Annie Ermlick) a sweet, simple American girl who has a newly acquired fortune at her fingertips. Freddy sees dollar signs and more craziness and newfound love abounds, as they rousingly sing the tongue-in-cheek “Nothing is Too Wonderful to be True.” But what happens when truths unfold, emotions seep in, and plot twists abound? Tons of fun!

Choreographer Matt Anderson does a fine job of matching outlandish dance moves to the perky, playful tunes from the orchestra, and even manages to use different styles, such as a hoedown for the outlandish “Oklahoma!” and a passionate use of salsa for “The More We Dance.”

The acting is uniformly entertaining as well. I particularly enjoyed Tatro as the dim-witted Freddy and Ermlick as Christine, whose breathy voice and naïve, wide-eyed responses reminded me of Marilyn Monroe. Flatt and Tatro have lots of chemistry together and work well as the many plot-twists and jokes unfold. Their teamwork on “All About Ruprecht” is a sight to behold. McMahan is extremely charming as André.

Front Row, L to R: Jerry Hoffman, Janette Moman, Patrick McMahan, Ivan Davila, Becca Harney, Teri Allred, Lisa Freese. Back Row, L to R: Nathan Tatro, Annie Ermlick, Tom Flatt, Bri Eul, Karl Meier, Holly McDade, and Patrick Graham. Photograph by David Segal.

Kharfen successfully keeps things moving at a quick pace and receives fine performances from his hard-working and funny cast. Richards and his talented group of musicians play David Yazbek’s tuneful score with gusto but never drown out the singers in the very intimate performing space.

If you want a night (or matinee) of light, silly fun, then con your way into a pair of tickets to see Elden Street Players’ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Running Time is 165 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels plays through August 25, 2012 at Elden Street Players – 269 Sunset Park Drive, in Herndon, VA. For tickets, call (703) 481-5930, or order them online.


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