There was no shortage of talented performers in Footlite Musicals' production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” which opened Friday and continues through March 24 at the Hedback Community Theatre on Indianapolis’ Near Northside. However, talented performers alone were not enough to overcome a disappointing effort that ultimately lacked vitality and polish.
Even though Footlite, which is an all-volunteer community theater, is capable of producing professional-quality productions (last year's "Rent" for example), this endeavor — directed by Dan Scharbrough and seen by this writer Sunday — was unfortunately not among them.
Not only was the show bogged down by a lackluster pace, it was further hampered by an orchestra that sounded tinny and couldn’t keep the tempo.
And though a beautifully painted representation of the French Rivera on a backdrop was a saving grace, the poorly designed and constructed sets reflected inferior production values that only reinforced the show’s amateurish quality.
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” a formulaic musical with a less-than-memorable score, is based on the 1988 film (starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine) of the same name. The musical adaptation ran on Broadway in 2005.
It tells the story of two con men — one slick and sophisticated, the other a petty crook — working scams and schemes on the French Rivera, who end up getting duped themselves.
The show’s leads consist of some of Indianapolis’ most seasoned and well-known non-professional actors. They are Robyne J. Ault as Muriel Eubanks, Tom Beeler as Inspector Andre, J. Stuart Mill as Lawrence Jameson, Betsy Norton as Christine Colgate and Noelle Steele as Jolene Oakes. Though mostly believable in their roles, their collective talents couldn’t save this production, which was merely amusing when it could have been uproarious.
Justin Klein is a young performer to watch. Exhibiting a talent for broad physical comedy, he was thoroughly entertaining as small-time crook Freddy Benson. Nowhere was his creative skill more evident than in a scene in which, during one of their schemes, his character passes himself off as his crime partner’s obnoxious brother, Ruprecht.
Members of the ensemble lacked crispness and were not always synchronous as they executed the production’s bland choreography, but, due to their youthful enthusiasm and appeal, they nevertheless managed to engage an audience that was lukewarm at best.
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