Hot soup, slapstick, voluntary wheelchair wetting! Cardiff's Millennium Centre saw it all last week. And while the classic comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels may not be your definitive buddy movie, as with all such films this musical adaptation relies on the chemistry between its two leading conmen to bring the story to life. The #Film saw Steve Martin and Michael Caine as the duo of confidence tricksters, one as rough as the other was refined. This touring production, has Michael Praed as Lawrence while Freddy is played by Noel Sullivan. Yes, Noel Sullivan!

Now to those of you who don’t remember the brief and golden period of TV talent shows, between the retreat of Matthew Kelly and the arrival of Simon Cowell, Sullivan might mean nothing to you.

Advertisements
Advertisements

But, to those of us who spent Saturday nights glued to Fame Academy and Popstars, Noel’s Hear’Say were the world's first winners. Alas, Hear’Say were an early indicator that the X Factor format cannot sustain success for many outside of the schedules and the band quickly folded.

Fast-forward 15 years and Noel Sullivan is a born-again musical theatre star – one of those performers who convinces you there is nothing that they cannot do. Taking on the myriad guises of a conman he is always charming in his portrayals, creating walks, accents and quirks which set all his personalities apart. On top of all that, of course, he can sing. Three songs in is when Great Big Stuff appears and when the show really starts to play its tricks on us.

Michael Praed is pleasant enough as the vain, polished Michael Caine character.

Advertisements

He is given all the clever, wordy songs like Ruffhousin’ Mit Shuffhausen. But as ingenious as the wordplay is it only lends credence to Sondheim’s adage: situation is funny, clever is not. Seeing Freddy (Sullivan) play the simpleton Ruprecht or sing his legs into movement – the hilarious Love is My Legs – beats all the cleverosity hands-down. Which begs the question: Is Freddy just a better-written part? The fish out of water American amongst the elocutioned ex-pats of the French Riviera is just plain funny. His character has been updated too, with references to Oprah and the Obamas never seeming out of place in the otherwise classic ‘50s set, but making his lines even more jarringly comic. Praed does have a moment of sheer class, when he is given the opportunity for his beautiful baritone to soar, in the show’s only real ballad Love Sneaks In. But his performance only picks up the pace when he has Sullivan to play off.

Coming far too late into this review, and into the show itself, is Carley Stenson.

Advertisements

Her entrance for the final scenes of Act 1 lets you know that there is another out and out professional on the stage. Luckily her second-half vocal acrobatics and plot-stealing storyline give her plenty to work with. Mark Benton - see video - is a beautiful, bumbling inspector. He too gets room for a plotline and song or two in the second act.

The only curious balance in this new musical is that between the chorus and the leads. In a post-Legally Blonde era the faceless chorus, rather than ensemble of individuals, seems peculiarly out of date in an f-bomb dropping musical like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. More interplay between the chorus and the leads may have helped the scenes without Sullivan sparkle more. But by the end the show kept to its conman mantra of Give Them What They Want and the audience were sold: song after scene of the two leads together – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and buddies to boot. #Music #Live