Dirty Rotten Scoundrels [Original Broadway Cast Recording]

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Although the biggest hits on Broadway in the early 2000s were stage musical versions of movies, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is one re-envisioning that, while entertaining, doesn't quite reach the levels of The Producers and Monty Python's Spamalot. "Smooth and breezy," "Give them what they want," and "Leave them wanting more," are some of the phrases in the opening song, and they seem an apt description for this original Broadway cast recording, although not necessarily in the most positive way. The songs are smooth -- all moderately paced -- and very breezy -- all have irreverent lyrics with glib rhymes. There's nothing that could offend anyone in any way. However, there really isn't anything that will challenge anyone either. David Yazbek's lyrics would be more impressive if they were a little less slickly delivered and some of his music a little snappier. He does use a variety of different styles of music -- "Rüffhausen mit Schüffhausen" is a waltz, "The More We Dance" is similar to a samba, for example -- none of which mockingly parody those styles, and the real orchestra used does give the show the feel of an old-fashioned Broadway musical. The second half is better than the first half. The pace picks up a bit, and as the characters begin to reveal their true selves (pay attention to John Lithgow's message about not spoiling the twist ending), Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz become more believable. Yes, this is a story about con men, but the delivery of Lithgow is a little too over the top to be convincing as the suave, Continental gentleman. Butz's Freddy is meant to be over the top, based as it is on Steve Martin's character in the original movie, so the standard 1980s Broadway production number "Great Big Stuff" is entirely appropriate; but even so, the straighter delivery of the marks, Sherie Rene Scott as Christine and Joanna Gleason as Muriel, is more convincing. The final bonus track of Scott's straight delivery of "Nothing Is Too Wonderful to Be True" is the best track, comparing well with the love songs of Gershwin's and Porter's musicals. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is as pleasantly amusing and unassuming as the original film, but by not pushing the envelope story-wise or musically, it leaves the audience wanting more.

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