Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (musical)

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Original Broadway Production Poster
Music David Yazbek
Lyrics David Yazbek
Book Jeffrey Lane
Basis 1988 film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Productions 2005 Broadway
2006 North American tour
International and regional productions
2013 Australia
2014 West End
2015/16 UK Tour

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a 2004 comedy musical, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and a book by Jeffrey Lane; it is based on the 1988 film of the same name. The musical premiered on Broadway in 2005 and ran for 626 performances despite mixed reviews. It has since received tours and international productions. The Australian production opened in 2013 to rave reviews and was called the "best musical to hit Sydney this century" by the Sydney Morning Herald. A West End production opened in 2014 to generally warm reviews.


Original production[edit]

The musical premiered in San Diego, California on September 22, 2004, before moving to Broadway in January 2005 and officially opening in March at the Imperial Theatre. The show closed on Broadway on September 3, 2006 after a total of 626 performances. The director was Jack O'Brien, choreographer was Jerry Mitchell, with scenic design by David Rockwell, costume design by Gregg Carves, and lighting design by Kenneth Posner. The cast included John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz, and Sherie Rene Scott, with Joanna Gleason, Gregory Jbara, and Sara Gettelfinger.[1] The production was nominated for ten Tony Awards, including best musical, best book and best score, but it won only one, for leading actor (Butz).[2]

National tours and international productions[edit]

A North American national Equity tour launched on August 4, 2006 with Norbert Leo Butz reprising his role as Freddy, alongside Tom Hewitt as Lawrence.[1] The tour ended on August 19, 2007. A 25-city non-Equity tour, with Jamie Jackson as Lawrence and Doug Thompson as Freddy, began on September 25, 2007 in Dayton, Ohio, with its final performance on March 23, 2008, in Memphis, Tennessee.[citation needed]

International productions have been staged in Tokyo,[citation needed] Mexico City,[3] Stuttgart, Seoul, Oslo, Stockholm, Tampere and Plzeň.[citation needed] Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opened in Sydney, Australia, October 24, 2013 with an all-Australian cast, featuring Tony Sheldon, John Wood, Matt Hetherington, Amy Lehpamer, Anne Wood and Katrina Retallick.[citation needed]

West End (2014)[edit]

The original UK production had pre-West End tryouts at the Manchester Opera House and the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre beginning in November 2013[4] before beginning previews at the Savoy Theatre, London, on March 10, 2014, with the official opening night on April 2, 2014.[5] The show is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, with design by Peter McKintosh,[6] in what was described as a "reconceived and re-imagined" production.[7] The original cast includes Robert Lindsay as Lawrence, Rufus Hound as Freddy, Katherine Kingsley as Christine[8] and Samantha Bond as Muriel.[9] The show closed on March 7, 2015.[10]

UK Tour (2015)[edit]

The UK Tour starred Michael Praed as Lawrence, Noel Sullivan as Freddy, Carley Stenson as Christine, and Geraldine Fitzgerald as Muriel. Mark Benton began the tour in May 2015 as Andre, with Gary Wilmot taking over the role in September 2015. The tour opened in Birmingham at the New Alexandra Theater on May 5, 2015. The cast also featured Emma Caffrey, Andy Conaghan, Phoebe Coupe, Soophia Faroughi, Jonny Godbold, Orla Gormley, Patrick Harper, Justin Lee-Jones, Jordan Livesey, Lisa Mathieson, Andy Rees, Freya Rowley, Regan Shepherd, Kevin Stephen-Jones, Katie Warsop and Jenny Wickham.


Act 1[edit]

Inside a lively casino near the French Riviera ("Overture"), con-artist Lawrence Jameson is tricking wealthy women out of their money with the help of his "bodyguard" Andre ("Give Them What They Want"). Muriel and a few other women express their devotion and amorous feelings for Lawrence ("What Was a Woman To Do"). Andre warns Lawrence about a con-artist known as “The Jackal”. Later aboard a train, Lawrence watches an American named Freddy Benson swindle a woman, but notes that Freddy makes much less money than Lawrence does. Lawrence brings Freddy to his lavish mansion, where Freddy envies Lawrence's success as a swindler and describes everything he'll have when he’s rich ("Great Big Stuff"). Freddy asks Lawrence to “show [him] his ways”. Andre thinks Freddy is unworthy of Lawrence's attention and compares Freddy to a ("Chimp in a Suit"). Lawrence ignores Freddy's request until Jolene Oakes, a woman he's swindled, informs him at gunpoint that he's going to marry her and move with her Oklahoma ("Oklahoma?"). Then Lawrence decides to use Freddy’s help. Freddy poses as Lawrence’s repulsive brother Ruprecht ("All About Ruprecht"). Seeing that Lawrence plans to make Ruprecht a large part of their life together, Jolene calls off the wedding.

Lawrence begins to think that there isn’t enough room in town for both him and Freddy. They make a deal: the first to swindle a woman out of $50,000 gets to stay in town, while the other has to leave. Immediately after they agree on this, the arrival of “The American Soap Queen, Christine Colgate" is announced ("Here I Am"). Both con men decide to target her. Freddy presents himself as a man paralyzed from the waist down. Christine and Freddy discuss his medical options and he explains that only one therapist, Dr. Shuffhausen, can help him, but he can’t afford Dr. Shuffhausen's $50,000 fée. Christine tells him to keep his hopes up ("Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True") and offers to pay for the therapy just as Freddy had hoped ("The Miracle"). Then she reveals that Dr. Shuffhausen is at the hotel and Freddy is shocked to discover that Lawrence is Shuffhausen.

Act 2[edit]

After a quick introduction ("Entr'acte"), Lawrence as Shuffhausen performs several torturous tests on Freddy ("Ruffhousin' Mit Shuffhausen"), who has to endure then without complaint. In the side show Muriel meets Andre and the two fall in love ("Like Zis/Like Zat"). Lawrence makes every effort to get close to Christine ("The More We Dance"). When he realizes that Christine is not as rich as they thought. Lawrence tells Freddy that they should call off their $50,000 contest. Freddy reluctantly agrees and they agree on new terms: whoever beds Christine gets to stay. Freddy sleeps with her, then hires two sailors to kidnap Lawrence so that he can have Christine to himself.

Freddy meets with Christine at the hotel where he tells her he needs motivation to get out of his chair. She says she’ll be his motivation ("Love is My Legs"). She sits on the bed till he is finally able to stand up out of his chair and walk to her on the bed (where he "accidentally" falls on top of her in exhaustion). Lawrence then shows up and it turns out to be a test planned by him and Christine. Lawrence has the same two sailors kidnap Freddy while he takes Christine to the train station so she can leave ("Love Sneaks In"). Freddy shows up, having escaped the sailors too late to get to Christine.

The next day Freddy meets Christine back at the hotel who says she couldn’t leave “without seeing you again.” ("Son of Great Big Stuff") The two get in bed together before the scene is switched to Lawrence’s mansion where Christine arrives, telling him tearfully how she came back to see Freddy, how they made love, and then when she woke up all her money was gone: “I’m beginning to think he was never really paralyzed.” Out of remorse, Lawrence packs 50 thousand dollars in a suitcase and tells her to take it. Christine takes it, but returns and gives him back the suitcase saying, "I’ll have something so much better to remember you by" before leaving.

A few minutes later Freddy shows up in his underwear. Lawrence is angry at him for taking Christine’s money. Freddy, however, claims that they never made love at all; they were about to when she knocked him out. When he woke up all his belongings were gone. Lawrence then opens up the suitcase to find the money gone, replaced by Freddy’s clothes and a note that reads, “Goodbye boys. It was fun! Love, 'The Jackal'”, thus revealing that she knew about their scam the entire time, and instead ended up scamming them ("The Reckoning"). A while later Christine returns to Lawrence's chateau, bringing a group of other people with her. The guys finally admit the scam was a good adventure for them ("Dirty Rotten Number") and they hatch a scheme to scam the crowd of people together in the "Finale".

Musical numbers[edit]

The musical numbers in the original Broadway production were as follows:


  • For the first national tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the number "Give Them What They Want" was replaced with (according to Yazbek) a more suitable opening number, "The Only Game in Town".[citation needed]
  • The line in "Give Them What They Want" which mentions David Niven is a reference to Niven's starring role as Laurence Jameson in the original film Bedtime Story.[citation needed]
  • The West End production revises the material still further. "Give Them What They Want" is restored in place of "The Only Game in Town", though it takes place in Laurence's dressing room and several lines are changed. "Chimp in a Suit" has been cut along with Freddie's verse of "Nothing is too Wonderful to be True". The book and lyrics have also been tweaked to Anglicise both some of the characters and references.[11]


The Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Original Broadway Cast Recording CD was recorded on March 14, 2005 at Right Track Studio in New York City[12] and was released on May 10, 2005 by Ghostlight Records (an imprint of Sh-K-Boom Records).[13] It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.[14]

Characters and cast[edit]

Character Original Broadway performer Original West End performer[15]
Lawrence Jameson John Lithgow Robert Lindsay
Freddy Benson Norbert Leo Butz Rufus Hound
Christine Colgate Sherie Rene Scott Katherine Kingsley
Muriel Eubanks Joanna Gleason Samantha Bond
Inspector Andre Thibault Gregory Jbara John Marquez
Jolene Oakes Sara Gettelfinger Lizzy Connolly
Notable Broadway replacements
Notable West End replacements

Critical reception[edit]

The Broadway reviews were mixed. Ben Brantley of The New York Times compared the musical with the 2001 hit musical The Producers, also an adaptation of a film about two con men, and found it lacking in confidence and energy. He praised Butz but felt that the musical's "ingredients appear to have been assembled according to an oft-checked shopping list for a borrowed recipe. There is equally little evidence of ... chemistry between its two perpetrators."[17] John Simon at the New York Magazine review mostly liked the book and lyrics, as well as the direction and cast, but found the music merely serviceable. He termed the show "a bit vulgar, a bit hokey, a bit for the tired businessman, but often funny, not infrequently clever, with a nice sprinkling of the outrageous".[18]

The West End reviews were generally favorable. The Sunday Times critic called it "a scandalous delight".[19] The Times found it merely "likeable", giving it three stars out of five and reserving most of its praise for Kingsley.[20] The Telegraph gave it four stars, finding it more fun than the film and praising the book, cast and direction.[21] The Independent also judged it worth three stars but liked the score, which it found witty, more than the book, which it thought was lacking in depth, comparing it unfavorably with The Producers.[22] Michael Billington at The Guardian awarded four stars. He enjoyed the show's nostalgic fun and "escapist fantasy".[23] The London Evening Standard also awarded four stars, also highlighting Kingsley's contribution and concluding: "There’s plenty of razzle-dazzle yet also a wry knowingness."[24] The Daily Mail also awarded three stars.[25] The Financial Times was more critical, giving the show only two stars and lamenting that the songs failed to carry the story and characters forward. It found the show silly, but not "in a good way ... [It] determinedly eradicated every atom other than the feel good. Any instance of underplaying may conceivably result in docked wages. Basic theatrical continuity goes out the window, as characters sing in verbal idioms and even in accents entirely alien to their spoken lines".[26]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2005 Tony Award[2][27] Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Jeffrey Lane Nominated
Best Original Score David Yazbek Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Norbert Leo Butz Won
John Lithgow Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Sherie Rene Scott Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Joanna Gleason Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Jack O'Brien Nominated
Best Choreography Jerry Mitchell Nominated
Best Orchestrations Harold Wheeler Nominated
Best Lighting Design Kenneth Posner Nominated
Drama Desk Award[28][29] Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical Jeffrey Lane Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Norbert Leo Butz Won
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Sherie Rene Scott Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Gregory Jbara Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Joanna Gleason Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Jerry Mitchell Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Harold Wheeler Nominated
Outstanding Music David Yazbek Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Nominated

Original London production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
Laurence Olivier Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical Samantha Bond Nominated
Best Choreographer Jerry Mitchell Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Ends Its Broadway Streak Sept. 3; Tour Is Hot" Archived February 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Playbill. September 3, 2006.
  2. ^ a b "2004/2005 Tony Nominations Announced; Spamalot Garners 14 Nominations". Playbill. May 10, 2005. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Opens in Mexico City March 26". Playbill. March 26, 2008. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound star in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels musical at Savoy next year". Whats On Stage. November 1, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy Theatre". London Theatre. November 1, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  6. ^ "U.K. Premiere of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Will Star Tony Winner Robert Lindsay; Jerry Mitchell Directs". Playbill. November 1, 2013. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Give Them What They Want! Robert Lindsay & Rufus Hound to Lead Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in the West End". broadway.com/buzz. November 1, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Robert Lindsay signs up for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels musical". BBC News. November 1, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Samantha Bond joins cast of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels". The Stage. London. December 13, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels confirms West End closing date". WhatsOnStage.com. December 17, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels". Savoy Theatre programme: 16. April 2014. 
  12. ^ "Dirty Forever! Broadway's Scoundrels Preserve Show with Cast Recording". Playbill. March 15, 2005. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved April 3, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True: Dirty Rotten Cast Album In Stores May 10". Playbill. May 10, 2005. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved April 3, 2014. 
  14. ^ "2005 Grammy nominees (see #79)". USA Today. Associated Press. February 8, 2006. Retrieved October 22, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, Opens in London April 2". playbill.com. playbill. April 2, 2014. Archived from the original on April 3, 2014. Retrieved April 3, 2014. 
  16. ^ Mitford, Oliver. "Alex Gaumond joins the all-star cast of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels", Best of Theatre, October 2014, accessed October 28, 2014
  17. ^ Brantley, Ben. "The Art of the Con, Reprised", The New York Times, March 4, 2005, accessed April 6, 2014
  18. ^ Simon, John (April 2005)."Pros and Cons". New York Magazine. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  19. ^ Hart, Christopher (April 6, 2014). "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels the Musical, Savoy". The Sunday Times. London. 
  20. ^ Maxwell, Dominic (April 3, 2014). "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre, WC2". The Times. London. 
  21. ^ Spencer, Charles (April 3, 2014). "Robert Lindsay gives a masterclass in theatrical style in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy Theatre, says Charles Spencer". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  22. ^ Nathan, John (April 3, 2014). "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Musical - review". The Independent. London. 
  23. ^ Billington, Michael (April 2, 2014). "Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound sparkle as French Riviera conmen in a comedy that channels Ben Jonson via Mel Brooks". The Guardian. London. 
  24. ^ Hitchings, Henry (April 3, 2014). "Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound in a savvy show to savour". London Evening Standard. 
  25. ^ Letts, Quentin (April 4, 2014). "Rootin' tootin' conmen will take you for a ride". Daily Mail. London. 
  26. ^ Shuttleworth, Ian (April 3, 2014). "Yes, it's a silly story but this relentlessly overplayed musical takes the silliness too far". Financial Times. London. 
  27. ^ "Doubt Is Best Play, Spamalot Best Musical; Butz, Irwin, Clark, Jones, Nichols Win 2005 Tonys". playbill.com. Playbill. June 5, 2005. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Drama Desk Awards Nominations Announced". broadwayworld.com. Broadway World. April 28, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Doubt, Spamalot, Twelve Angry Men, La Cage Win 2005 Drama Desk Awards". playbill.com. Playbill. May 23, 2005. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Olivier awards 2015: complete list of nominations". The Guardian. March 9, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 

External links[edit]