In Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (through Saturday, May 10, at Baldwinsville Theatre Guild), we expect an uneven contest between the slob and the suave guy. True, slovenly, down-market con man Freddy (Maxwel Anderson) has a roaring good time grossing out his patrician rival Lawrence (Rob Searle). But Lawrence is never a straight man, zinging Freddy with, “What you lack in grace you make up for in vulgarity.” In this 2004 Jeffrey Lane-David Yazbeck musical adaptation of the 1988 Steve Martin-Michael Caine movie, Freddy and Lawrence are on the Riviera trying to separate lonely women from their money. They enter a contest to see who can swindle better.
All the women like to play and sing their lungs out. First there’s the naughty and submissive widow Muriel (veteran Kathy Egloff, never better), with the plaintive, “What Was a Woman to Do?” Next is brassy, red-haired Jolene Oakes (newcomer Juli Mosely) in white cowboy boots. Her big solo “Oklahoma?” might be a show-stopper, but her purse turns out to be emptier than first appeared. That leaves the prize catch, the American Soap Queen, Christine Colgate (Jennifer Pearson). Despite her powerhouse soprano and pretty face, Pearson is an unconventional leading lady. We know her instead as a high-energy comedienne who never falters, as with her Ophelia in last year’s Hamlet Cha-Cha-Cha. Her entrance number, “Here I am,” sounds like a Jerry Herman number in the Hello, Dolly! vein.
Musically the score is long on novelty (like the Cole Porterish duet “Like Zis/Like Zat”) but short on romance, the best being Lawrence’s solo, “Love Sneaks In.” Nevertheless, director Trevor F. Hill gives this area community theater debut a professional gloss. There are eight musicians in the pit, ably led by Dan Williams, as well as a disciplined chorus with new costumes for every number.