By Rob Bradfield
I’ve seen a lot of Baylor musicals.
I haven’t enjoyed any as much as I enjoyed “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” tells the story of Lawrence Jameson, a suave, continental con-man on the French Riviera.
Lawrence, played by Lewisville senior Richard Ross, makes his living tricking rich women out of their money. Accompanied by his pessimistic French “bodyguard” Andre, played by Seguin senior Francisco Lopez, the two rule over a court of Europe’s richest and most gullible wives and widows.
Ross, who is much taller than most, is well adapted to this role as a — pardon the phrase — giant among men. More than physical height, he has a towering presence that leaves none unconvinced of his claims to money and title.
Into this scene walks Freddy Benson, played by Colorado Springs junior Kevin Wilson.
Freddy is an aspiring con man, and attaches himself to Lawrence as an unwanted student.
Call it opening weekend jitters, but I wasn’t immediately impressed with Wilson’s performance. His first scene jumped between the two poles of Bob Hope and Marty McFly. It seemed a little affected, but it didn’t last long.
In his first number Wilson really found his voice and the character took off like a rocket.
Suddenly there was this endearing, wheedling, witty, rascally and wholly likeable guy on stage. The sort of guy you’d love to have a drink with but wouldn’t leave your wallet unwatched with.
Among the other denizens of French Riviera casinos were the various heiresses that make up a good part of the rest of the cast.
Muriel, played by Sulphur Springs junior Brittney Woolley, is a terminally Midwestern heiress who gets swept up in Lawrence’s fake world. Her first solo song was an absolute powerhouse, and she did not disappoint afterwards.
My favorite part must have been the sequence with Oklahoma oil heiress Jolene.
Jolene, played by Spring junior Samantha Wendling, is pushy and wonderfully tacky. The contrast between her brash southern stubbornness, which everyone in Texas has experienced at one point or another, and the refined airs of Lawrence are a recipe for comedic splendor.
Last but not least is the ingenue Christine, played by Colleyville senior Kelsey Martin. Christine enters to great anticipation, and her first number does not disappoint. Far from being a device for Ross and Wilson to play off of, Martin grabs your attention when you first see her. Not literally in the play of course— saying more would be a horrible spoiler for a wonderful gag. Her character’s slow-to-erode naivete makes you want to slowly shake your head and say, “Bless her heart.”
Without giving anything away, I will say that it doesn’t end there with her.
The action takes place on a lavish setting that recalls at times the forced perspective sets of bygone eras of theater and the most modern of Broadway glitz. The choreography, while slow to start, quickly picks up into a rolling pace that belies the difficulty of the moves.
The show is definitely a must- see for theater fans, and in spite of a few wobbles, Baylor’s version is exceedingly enjoyable and fun.
I’d plan on going again.