April 03, 2011

Let's All Yodel (?)

drs_poster.jpgThere are three types of people in this city of ours:
1. Those who hear "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels the Musical starring a FOX News celebrity" and run straight to the theatre without even asking which FOX News celebrity.
2. Those who, upon hearing the word "musical," run-dash-sprint! in the opposite direction.
3. Those who are morbidly curious. Can such a thing be done? A musical? Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? Really? And so we (yes, I am of this third category)--we pick up our tickets with trepidation.

If you're in the first or second category, I'm not even going to talk to you. You've already made up your mind, and judging from the Center Stage's production, you'll be ecstatic if you just stay your course. The musical-y inclined will thrill at the set! the dancing! quick costuming! laughing! The runners-away will shudder at such sections as (I'm not making this up) "Let's All Yodel." Stay your course.

But what about those curious among us? Here are the observations of one trepidatious (not a word) theatre-goer.

1. The lyrics are brilliantly clever, hilarious in spaces (when asked to describe the magic of being alive, Freddy lists such things as: "my hotel gives away free shampOOOOO"). The book also sometimes bowls you right over (Especially when discussing the glories of Wagner and bacon....) If you at all like word-play, reparte--go! Lane and Yazbek have cooked up such a feast as will not disappoint.

2. Some of the scenes are hysterical. "All About Ruprecht" is one of the funniest things I've seen this season. Todd Weir's Freddy Benson is perfect here--the faux "disturbed" brother may have run off Lawrence's unwanted fiance, but he's enough to drag the audience back for a second round of laughs. If you love to laugh--go. (Just save your drinks till intermission....)

3. If you just want to see if this Dirty Rotten Scoundrels worked as a musical? Eh. Maybe you should join up with some of those runners away.

3. a. Choreography. In trying to wow us with Musical-ity, the Choreographers That Be crammed the space with more chorus girls that you can shake a stick at. The resulting dance sequences (of which there are plenty) went limp. I will say, that when the number of dancing dames was severely limited--such as in "The More We Dance" the relatively simple choreography became electric. The dancers had freedom to move, to be energetic, and I was delightfully entranced.

3. b. Music. There were some songs that really worked: those whose lyrics were too clever not to work ("All About Ruprecht"), and those that were an outright parody of the musical form ("Love is My Legs" was one hysterical example). In both cases, the performers truly inhabited the music and had the audience doubled over in laughter. I wished for (but could not find) the same let-loose sincerity from the other musical numbers.

I would like to note that there were some strong performances (Todd Weir's Freddy Benson I've already mentioned). Melanie Ann Wiliford was refreshingly in command of her Muriel Eubanks, and more: her singing had the note of truth, whether she was being funny or no. Hers was an intelligent, stable performance, and I'm glad I saw it.

Runners to the theatre--I hope you still run, and run fast. You will have a blast. Runners away, you have been warned. Wonderers? Now that's up to you.

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