By: Suzie Balabuch

Illustration by Stephanie Kervin

Illustration by Stephanie Kervin

Stephanie Kervin

With winter weather finally making its unwelcome comeback in the past few days, it seems as though everyone is in need of some sunshine in the form of a little musical entertainment. The Hart House Theatre has just the thing for a case of the winter blues: running from January 14 to the 29th, the Hart House Theatre is putting on a production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. A Tony award winning musical based on the 1988 film of the same name, the film and resulting Broadway show have delivered big laughs, extravagance, and frivolous fun, and the upcoming Hart House production is looking to do the same.

The musical tells the story of two rival con-men, Lawrence Jameson (played by Neil Silcox) and Freddy Benson (Evan Dowling). The two smooth-talking crooks duke it out over territory on the beautiful French Riviera, vying for first the fortune, and later the affections, of the lovely Christine (played by Ashley Gibson), who is rumoured to be a soap company heiress.

Jeremy Hutton, the director of the Hart House production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, spoke with the newspaper about the show.

“It’s big—it’s really big—and it’s fun and has all the qualities of a golden age of musical theatre; this is more rare nowadays.” Hutton praises the clever writing of the show, the “old big Broadway sounding score,” as well as the way the two are married in a seamless and successful way. “What makes it particularly great is that the music is really detailed and fantastic. It’s just rare to hear that kind of fun writing in the music itself.”

Hutton also admires the film version; it would be hard not to with such legends as Steve Martin and Michael Caine playing the two colourful main characters. “There’s definitely an element of knowing the material you’re working from. There are times when you want to pay homage, there are certainly moments you want to keep in there and stay true to.”

Hutton is intent on keeping the larger-than-life spirit of the show alive, but is aware of some of the limitations of the theatre itself. The Broadway production often featured huge, elaborate sets, which made Hutton want to maintain the “magical” and “Old Hollywood” aspect of the show, albeit on a smaller scale. “The real challenge was trying to create a space that was really inventive and really captured the spirit of the show without being able to do what they did on Broadway.”

Hutton has real confidence in his cast and crew, proclaiming his work with them as his favourite part of the process. “The cast is really, really talented. The leads in particular are very inventive. Probably my favourite part is just seeing what they come up with as all of them play all these different characters; it’s just really fun to watch them.”

His enthusiasm for their work is infectious, and it is always reassuring to see a director so dedicated to the show as well as the talent.

Hutton ultimately hopes that theatregoers fall under the spell of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as well. “I hope that the audience comes and has a blast and falls in love with these characters and leaves the theatre singing the tunes.”

With the end of winter nowhere in sight, a little time on the French Riviera is just the thing. Hutton sums up the production perfectly: “It’s like taking a holiday, and just having a couple hours of a great time.”

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