Friday, July 22, 2011

And The Part of Michael Caine will be played by Michael Traynor

Greendale Community Theatre’s production of DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Somewhere in the 1980’s, screenwriter Dale Launer (Ruthless People) was approached by David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Evidently they wanted to be in a film together and they wanted him to write it. He’d suggested a remake of an old 1964 Marlon Brando/David Niven film called Bedtime Story. It was a film about a couple of con artists on the French Riviera. Freddy Benson was a small-time hustler (played by Brando, probably suggested for Jagger in the remake) who made things difficult for more refined con man Lawrence (played by Niven likely the role suggested for Bowie.) As things go, the project developed from its original intentions and before long it had been turned into Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels—a film directed by Frank Oz starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin that came out in mid-December of ’88. It was a hit for Orion Pictures, raking-in over $40 million at the box office (not adjusted for inflation.) It was one of the higher-grossing films that year.

Hollywood is littered with those kind of successes.  Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels likely would’ve been forgotten as one of the countless respectably successful films that have come out over the decades had it not been for a musical adaptation of the film which debuted in 2004, written by Jeffrey Lane with music and lyrics by David Yazbeck. The musical gets a thoroughly entertaining staging with the Greendale Community Theatre

It’s kind of a rare experience when I can see a musical theatre adaptation of a film and like the stage actor playing one of the characters better than the one in the original film. Michael Caine is a brilliant actor—there’s no questioning that, but Michael Traynor is so completely at home in this role that he seems almost better suited to it than Caine did. And while Traynor is far younger than Caine, the role WAS likely originally intended for David Bowie—a man 14 years younger than Michael Caine. Bowie would’ve been—somewhere around 41 years old in ’88 when the film came out, so original intentions being what they were for the script, it makes sense that a younger man like Traynor would look more at home in the role. (True, David Niven was 54 when he played the role in Bedtime Story, but that would've been a distinctly different script.)  

In any case, the Greendale Communiy Theatre production of the musical based on the film is a huge amount of fun and a great deal of that fun has to do with Tarynor’s performance here.  He’s brilliantly smooth in the role. The cool thing about that is that, when the character falls in love, it doesn’t come across with a kind of jarring disconnect. He’s not suddenly dumbstruck like a kid falling in love for the first time . . . it’s much more subtle than that, which works really well.

There are a number of other really good performances here, including beautiful performances by Anna Fraser, Jordan Gwiazdowski and Amber Smith. A show like his with a kind of a wide range of different influences including a brief country-western fugue, provides production designers with an opportunity to stretch out a bit . . . Michael Keiley does a good job of working the spectrum, particularly with ensemble outfits including cowgirl attire, French maid outfits, bell hop uniforms and people of various different walks of life.

Choreographer/ensemble member Stephanie Staszak had an opportunity to work in a variety of different forms from country line dancing to synchronized ballroom and a number of other styles. All of which were executed with a sense of economy and balance that made the best use of the space without making it seem to vast or too small—either of which would have been possible with an ensemble of a dozen people.

The Greendale Community Theatre production of Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels runs through July 30th at the Greendale High School Auditorium. A far more concise review runs in the next Shepherd-Express. For ticket reservations, call 414-423-2700, ext 4193.

 

 

 

 

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