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Theatre Review: Arvada Center Gets Down With ‘Dirty’

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was turned into a Broadway musical in 2005, based on the popular 1988 film, based on the 1964 film. The story revolves around Lawrence Jameson, an established, charming conman, and his obnoxiously energetic protege, Freddy Benson. Lawrence and Freddy team to make their way into several hearts and wallets of women vacationing on the French riviera. Their schemes are interrupted by the charmingly naive Christine Colgate, whose reputation as “The American Soap Queen” has preceded her. Musicalized shenanigans ensue when the Soap Queen’s infectious charm rubs off on the dirtiest, rottenest con men in town.

‘Scoundrels’ Makes Scheming Fun

HE SAID: I love the irreverent style of the writing in this show. At times it is slapstick, at times crude, and at times it not only breaks the fourth wall, but the characters become aware that they are in a musical. And all of that is mixed into a rather fun, exciting story with a clever twist that certainly caught the people sitting behind us by surprise (we have seen the show before). It’s just a fun piece that has the potential to split a few sides.

Ben Nordstrom as Freddy & Dennis Parlato as Lawrence – Photo by P. Switzer

SHE SAID: This show is definitely a solid comedy that has the possibility to be very funny. However, it’s not one of those home-run shows where the natural pacing is so well-crafted that it’s hard to screw up. The comedy is paced strangely. First, it has a familiar trait of spending a lot of the first act setting up a situation that pays off in the second act.  But even the humor in the songs and scenes in Act 1 is a little hard to catch a hold of — there are several very witty lyrics, for example, that stream by quite quickly, which has the danger of leaving some of the audience members in the dust. The writing of the scenes is similar – sharp jumps between necessary plot and extremely sudden, fast-paced comedy. If you can catch it, you’ll enjoy it!

Leading Men and Ladies Are ‘Rotten’ Good

HE SAID: Despite some moments of open air that could have been tightened up to make the comedy punch a bit harder, this production provides consistent laughs, in general. Dennis Parlato as Lawrence was suave and debonaire, if not a bit too low key at times. His partner in this odd couple, Freddy, was capably played by Ben Nordstrom – who brought a great whimsy to the character. Both men bring great vocals throughout, but especially in the finale “Dirty Rotten Number”.

Laura E. Taylor as Christine Colgate & Ben Nordstrom as Freddy Benson Photo by P. Switzer

SHE SAID: I agree — this show is largely carried by the men, and they both definitely hold their own. They are absolutely brilliant when they’re together, and Nordstrom’s energy level is perfect for the role. His character’s crass edge, while providing much of the humor in the show, at times stuck out awkwardly. I actually enjoyed Laura E. Taylor’s performance so much as Christine that I was sorry she didn’t arrive until more than halfway through the first act. She was a joy to watch throughout the show, and showed expert variation in depicting her character’s unwavering optimism.

Design and Ensemble Bring ‘Dirty’ Class

HE SAID: The technical elements of the show were well executed, as is always the case for one of the area’s larger theaters. However, I did think the choice to have two stairs going across the length of the stage seemed impractical given that one of the main characters is in a wheelchair for a good portion of the show. A couple of times two people would have to come on just to lift him down the stairs and then they would leave. But is the only issue I have with what were otherwise very polished designs across the board.

Mercedes Perez as Sophia), Dennis Parlato as Lawrence & Alicia Dunfee as Lenore with ensemble – Photo by P. Switzer

SHE SAID: The design elements were all solid and high-quality, but could have been better coordinated. I definitely noticed and was distracted by the impracticality of the stairs given the wheelchair device. In addition, while the stairs provided opportunities for creative choreography, they were also a bit of an obstacle for the dancers at times. And while most of the costumes were rich and nuanced, there were a few choices that stuck out as overly simplistic and bordering on cartoonish.

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Head to Arvada to Get Down With ‘Dirty’

THEY SAID: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has an unusual pace for a Broadway musical — parts are laid back and luxurious, parts are frantic and witty. If you can go along with this roller coaster ride, you’ll enjoy The Arvada Center’s production of this amusing story. At a few points the production gets trapped in the space between these two, so there are momentary lulls before it snaps back into rhythm. But the humor only grows as the plot thickens, so you’ll be glad you stayed around to see how the whole ‘dirty’ mess gets resolved!

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels plays through September 30 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.

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