The student-run Miami Theatre Players presented Dirty Rotten Scoundrels last week. It was the funniest musical I’ve seen since “The Book of Mormon.”
The three-night performance spanned Nov. 13 to 15, taking place in the Studley Theatre and featured outstanding vocals, acting ability and direction, coupled with a great pit orchestra.
Based on a 1988 film starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was adapted into a musical, in 2004 with lyrics and music by David Yazbek and book by David Lane.
The story follows the exploits of two con artists, suave Brit Lawrence Jameson, played by third-year theatre major Ryan Christopher Thomas and outlandish American hustler Freddy Benson, played by fourth-year theatre major Geoffrey Fryer. Jameson operates in the French Riviera, and scams wealthy women out of their money by giving them a good time and later saying he needs money for some special cause. When Benson shows up in the Riviera trying to scam some wealthy women in a similar fashion, Jameson does not appreciate Benson taking any of his potential victims.
After meeting each other, finding that they have much in common, Benson and Jameson eventually start working together after getting over their disagreements.
Their adventures get comedic when insane Oklahoman Jolene Oakes shows up, played by fourth-year theatre major Alicia Dee Leduc. After a misunderstanding with Jameson that lead Oakes to believe they were getting married, Jameson and Benson had to work together to get her to absolutely detest Jameson, resulting in pure ridiculousness. Benson acted as Jameson’s deranged brother, Ruprecht, and acted crazy enough to drive Oakes out of town. Fryer’s performance in this scene was impressive. He showed that he is an incredible actor capable of doing outlandish roles.
Things get really interesting when Christine Colgate arrives in town, played by third-year communication disorders major Emily Sarra. Benson and Jameson both compete to scam Colgate, although the competition soon turns into who can win her affection. Benson poses as a permanently injured war veteran in a wheelchair, and Jameson poses as the only doctor who can cure him, German Doctor Emil Schuffhausen. The end result is pure comedy and features an unexpected twist.
Fryer and Thomas showed remarkable chemistry during the entire musical, a big factor in how fantastic it was.
“What makes performing so much fun for me is [Fryer], and the onstage chemistry we have,” Thomas said. “On the outside I’m sticking to my lines but on the inside I’m thinking ‘man, this guy is hilarious, this is so much fun!’”
Fryer echoed Thomas, and said their chemistry onstage effectively landed them their roles in the musical.
“At auditions, something kinda stood out from when [Thomas] and I sang Dirty Rotten Number for the first time,” Fryer said. “It was almost difficult not to deny that something weird had happened. We looked at [Director Ben Abrams] and he was loving it.”
Fryer and Thomas also complemented fourth-year secondary education and history major Abrams for doing a great job as director.
“He is a constant professional,” Fryer said. “I trust that he knows what he is doing and knows our best interests.”
As Abrams is a fellow student, a special connection exists according to Thomas.
“It is a different process working with him than working with a professor, because he is one of our peers,” Thomas said. “You sort of relate to him in a different way.”
The Miami Theatre Players don’t have a large budget to work with, something that was a challenge for the cast.
“When you hear that your budget is $100, it kind of takes the wind out of your sails,” Thomas said. “But you learn to overcome it, work hard and put on the best show you can.”
Fryer said that many of the performers pitched in to help improve the set and costumes. Despite the limited budget, there were no hiccups in the Nov. 15 performance.
The pit orchestra, directed by third-year music composition major Jeremiah Mahoney, provided a fantastic soundtrack that synched beautifully with the mic’d up singers.
Every performance was spot-on. Fryer and Thomas put on a flawless performance together, and fun little moments such as cast members breaking the fourth wall just made the musical even more special.