A night at the theatre
There is something so enticingly decadent about taking a cheeky, illicit dip into the world of the rich and famous, enjoying all the glitz and glamour without the inconvenient baggage of guilt, and the bill, which usually comes with it, then running home to normality.
I got just that chance last week when I was invited to Bonnie Langford’s first night in the West End production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at The Savoy Theatre. She plays a guileless millionaire who falls for the seductive charms of a fake prince played by the wonderful Robert Lindsay as Lawrence Jamieson, a con artist who whiles away his days fleecing the rich on the French Riviera.
He has all the rich pickings he can handle until a new kid on the block arrives in the shape of the young and dangerously canny farm boy fraudster, Freddy Benson, played by Alex Gaumond, also making his debut in the show. Lindsay, a man born to wear his black tie undone, steals our hearts from his first moments in a seemingly effortless pastiche of the tap-dancing numbers of years gone by, in which he doffs his hat to the glory days of the Brat Pack musicals, pocketing diamonds and tiaras on his way.
Gary Wilmot was also making his debut as Andre Thibault, Lawrence’s side-kick and protector, as seduced as anyone by the risk of the chase and the glitter of the prize. With Freddy threatening the old hand’s monopoly on the rich and gullible, Lawrence is forced to take him on as his apprentice in return for his loyalty and silence.
Before long though the two are in a battle for the heart and fortune of an American soap heiress, Christine Colgate, played with sparkling panache by Katherine Kingsley, and all bets are off.
The show is deliciously arch and self-aware with Lindsay skilfully inviting the audience into his confidence with knowing nods to My Fair Lady and a love/hate relationship with the conductor. Bonnie Langford – playing the adorably naïve and needy millionaire Muriel Eubanks – drifts beautifully in and out of the action but promises to stick around after the interval. “I’m sure there’ll be someone I can help in the second half.”
Indeed there is, and what a deliciously debauched pair they make.
Whatever the reality behind the scenes, the entire ensemble completely seduced us and reassured us that not only was there nowhere on earth they would rather be, but that there was no other audience they would rather play with. As Lawrence sings in the opening number: “Stroll in survey them – your world – they’re all invited guests. Feel out how to play them and remember this – you’re giving them what they want.”
So, get your hands on a ticket any way you can – you won’t regret it.
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn