One problem for a con man is keeping track of his or her place in reality, what’s actually true in a world of fiction.
For the Baylor Theatre production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” in which two con men battle for the lucrative territory of the French Riviera, director Lisa Denman had to remind her actors periodically which characters they were playing in whatever layer of the current con. Add to that the occasional aside made to the audience and you see why cast members needed the occasional reminder.
Adapted from the 1998 movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, the 2005 Broadway musical by David Yazbek pits urbane schemer Lawrence Jameson (Richard Ross) and small-time grifter Freddy Benson (Kevin Wilson) as rivals in a turf war for the wealthy vacationers in the French Riveria.
They agree to settle the matter with a master con: Whoever first bilks newcomer heiress Christine Colgate (Kelsey Martin) of $50,000 wins claim to the Riveria. That sets in motion an escalating series of bogus characters, sob stories and seduction pitches that give “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” its musical variety — pop, country, Latin and more — and snarky tone.
“It’s not like an old-fashioned romantic musical. It’s more irreverent and sarcastic,” Denman said.
The musical’s cast numbers 24, but a smaller ensemble carries much of the play with frequent costume — and character — changes. “You’ve got a cowboy/cowgirl number in the middle of the French Riviera, which makes no sense — which is why it’s there,” she said.
Alex Parker, director of the Baylor Jazz Ensemble, leads the orchestra with musical direction by Giulherme Almeida, vocal direction by Melissa Johnson and choreography by Meredith Sutton.
Those who remember the movie and its performances by Martin and Caine will find the Baylor production in slightly different territory, because of its music and dance as well as the youth of its cast, Denman said.
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” opens the 2012-13 Baylor Theatre season. Future productions include Euripides’ “Hecuba,” Nov. 13-18; the comedy “Born Yesterday,” Feb. 12-17; “The 39 Steps,” a Tony Award-winning adaptation of John Buchan’s mystery novel, March 19-24; and the post-Cold War drama “Mad Forest,” April 23-27. Season tickets are available by calling 710-1865 or going online at www.baylor.edu/theatre.