REVIEW: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Harrogate Theatre

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 10 years as a journalist, it’s that the people of Harrogate know how to put on a good show.

The town is awash with talent and we are fortunate enough to have the amazing Harrogate Theatre as the perfect venue to showcase it.

Last week it was the turn of the Harrogate Phoenix Players to dazzle audiences with their production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, directed by Mark Edwards.

As a huge fan of the original film, starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, the bar was set high and I was unsure how a musical production of the show would translate onto the stage.

However, within the first five minutes of the first act, I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

Set in the glamorous French Riviera – hats off to the set designers– we are introduced to Lawrence Jameson, a con artist who extracts money from rich, vulnerable women, played by Phoenix stalwart Mark Sowden.

With Andre Thibault, the chief of police, James Bullock, in his pocket, he leads a charmed life.

However, this is soon turned upside down when Freddy Benson, a brash, young conman, Oliver Franklin, begs him to teach him everything he knows.

The two form an unlikely alliance and when the beautiful American Soap Queen, Christine Colgate, Toni Wood, steps off the plane, things really heat up…

Mark Sowden and Oliver Franklin were hilarious as the two conmen, and the scene where the audience was introduced to Jameson’s ‘brother’ Ruprecht was one of the funniest of the show, enhanced by the sheer look of horror on the face of Jolene Oakes, played brilliantly – complete with impressive Texan accent – by Gillian Lancaster.

Then there was the balcony scene, which saw a very hungover Murial Eubanks, played hilariously by Carole Sowden, and Andre Thibault recalling the previous night’s unexpected antics, which had the audience in stitches.

Accompanied by a talented orchestra, led by musical director Oliver Longstaff, and enhanced by a catchy musical score, there were some exceptional solos and dance numbers.

Toni Wood’s voice was mesmerising and she was very convincing as the devious, but charming, ‘Jackal’.

The supporting cast, who had to tackle some tricky songs and dance moves, were also fantastic and looked at ease and confident on stage.

It never ceases to amaze me how much work goes into putting on these productions, yet local groups like the Phoenix Players continue to give up their time to put on fantastic shows like this.

Next year they are putting on Made in Dagenham, and if this production is anything to go by, I’ll be first in the queue at the box office.

Cast list is: director – Mark Edwards; Musical director – Oliver Langstaff

Lawrence Jameson – Mark Sowden; Freddy Benson– Oliver Franklin; Christine Colgate – Toni Wood; Andre Thibault – James Bullock; Muriel Eubanks – Carole Sowden; Jolene Oakes – Gillian Lancaster

Lenore – Becky Bedford; Sophia – Sandra Smallwood; Usherette – Hester Nunns-Tidman; Renee – Charlotte Ferguson; Gerard/Nikos – Chris Wall

Hotel Manager/Waiter/Sailor – Rob Hastings; Croupier – Graham Wilson; Conductor/Sailor –Jamie Lawrenson; Bellboy/Porter – James Porter

Waitress – Mia Hawley; Lawrence’s Conquests – Becky Bedford, Sue Blackman, Jenny Martin, Sandra Smallwood; Newspaper Seller – Sue Barrett; Flower Seller – Gillian Lancaster

Staff And Guests At The Hotel Beaumont Sur Mer – Sue Barrett, Sue Blackman, Becky Bedford, Sylvia Crawley, Charlotte Ferguson, Rob Hastings, Mia Hawley, Gillian Lancaster, Jamie Lawrenson, Jenny Martin, Hester Nunns-Tidman, James Porter, Sandra Smallwood and Graham Wilson