Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Some new cast members bring their own luster to one of the best shows on Broadway.
At any rate, DRS is still going strong at the Imperial Theatre, and it has recently been sparked by stellar replacements in three of the leading roles. Jonathan Pryce, one of the finest actors of our generation but not primarily known for this type of comedy, is terrific as con man Lawrence Jameson. He underplays much of the role -- perhaps a bit too much in the first few scenes, which are the show's weakest to begin with. But this only makes it all the more hilarious when, later on, he adopts ridiculous foreign accents and goes to other great lengths in his efforts to swindle various marks. (Shout-out to Jeffrey Lane for his expertly wrought, fall-down-funny book of the musical, based on the film of the same title and other antecedents.) Aside from his acting ability, Pryce possesses a lovely singing voice and puts across his songs to great effect, particularly the one straightforward ballad in the score: "Love Sneaks In."
The other newcomers to the cast are equally welcome. Rachel York is gorgeous beyond description as soap queen Christine Colgate; her singing is phenomenal, especially when she's belting high notes to the rafters; and her acting is so skillful that, even if you've seen the show before, the big plot twist in the penultimate scene may come as something of a shock. (York is only a temporary replacement for the fabulous Sherie Rene Scott, who's slated to return to DRS after her limited run in Landscape of the Body at Signature Theatre; but it's great that she's been handed the best Broadway role of her career thus far, even if only for a few months.) Mylinda Hull, for her part, is screamingly funny as the Oklahoma harridan Jolene Oakes. This character would probably be offensive to Oklahomans if it weren't so hysterically funny; Hull, a worthy successor to Sara Gettelfinger, plays Jolene with a dumb-as-a-fencepost smile and a snorting laugh that's dangerously infectious.
As for the continuing original cast members, they anchor the production with their comic brilliance and all-around excellence. Norbert Leo Butz, the only DRS nominee to have won a well-deserved Tony, is still a ball of fire as Freddy Benson, Jameson's sometime nemesis/sometime accomplice. His chemistry with Pryce is just as strong as it was with the original Jameson, John Lithgow. Gregory Jbara and Joanna Gleason remain thoroughly charming as André Thibault and Muriel Eubanks, scoring with the droll duet "Like Zis/Like Zat" and making the most of their roles' other opportunities.
A second (or third, or fourth) viewing of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels serves as a reminder that the work of scenic designer David Rockwell and costume designer Gregg Barnes is superb. Let it also be noted that this production boasts exemplary sound design by Acme Sound Partners -- quite a relief after having one's ears assaulted at The Color Purple or any number of other overamplified Broadway tuners.