You can’t help loving these dirty, rotten scoundrels

Martin Leigh and Tom Mayhew as the rival conment in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Picture: GAVIN KING PH

Martin Leigh and Tom Mayhew as the rival conment in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Picture: GAVIN KING PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, by Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek, presented by Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society, is at the New Wolsey Theatre until Saturday, June 17

Martin Leigh and Paul Stone in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by Ipswich Operatic Society, part of the New

Martin Leigh and Paul Stone in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by Ipswich Operatic Society, part of the New Wolsey Theatre's open season. Picture: GAVIN KING PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

It may be the most hilarious of the movie/stage musical crossovers of all.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels started out as a 1988 comedy movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. Set on the French Riviera, we meet seasoned English conman Lawrence Jameson who is in league with the local chief of police. When a brash, young rival, Freddy Benson, arrives on his lucrative patch, Lawrence decides to mentor him in the tricks of the trade. But then a spanner, in the shape of an American soap heiress, is thrown in the works when the two men vie to fleece her of her fortune.

The premise employs a well-known comic device and it’s a total winner.

Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society (IODS), bringing their main book show to the New Wolsey, chose absolutely the right show and deliver it with gusto and great accomplishment.

Tom Mayhew and Martin Leigh as Freddie Benson and Lawrence Jameson. Picture: IODS

Tom Mayhew and Martin Leigh as Freddie Benson and Lawrence Jameson. Picture: IODS - Credit: Archant


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It can be risky to turn a drama into musical but in this case, it pays off because the tunes are good and the lyrics, witty.

With many acclaimed productions stashed under her director’s chair, this is Sally Scurrell’s first time with IODs and her deft touch with staging is in evidence here. Put that together with Mike Wren’s adroit musical direction and Kimberley Moses’ sharp choreography and you get a really enjoyable night of musical theatre.

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Martin Leigh oozes amiable charm as the cunning Lawrence Jameson while Tom Mayhew’s Freddy is all instinctive guile. In his off-the-wall comedy scenes he had the audience in fits of laughter. When Christine Colgate (a splendid Laura Lucock) arrives, true love appears to raise its rather delightful head, somewhat complicating matters for the conmen. Paul Stone’s French police chief is a tour de force with scene-stealing moments, some shared with Stephanie Brown’s wonderful American-on-tour. Ellie Downes as Jolene Oakes, the serial bride-from-hell, keeps the comedy rolling along.

The specially constructed and truly workable set was a pleasure to behold and the ensemble work was a treat; the society has some fine young dancers. Even the tightly-drilled scene-shifting managed to get laughs.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (l-r) Paul Stone, Stephanie Brown, Martin Leigh, Tom Mayhew, Laura Lucock, E

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (l-r) Paul Stone, Stephanie Brown, Martin Leigh, Tom Mayhew, Laura Lucock, Ellie Downes. Picture: IODS - Credit: Archant

As I got up from my seat at the end of the show, a member of the audience in the row behind tapped me on the shoulder: “You need to give this a really good review,” he told me. It was never in doubt.

LYNNE MORTIMER

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