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Queens Chronicle

Trust nothing — except that this is one fun show

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2019 10:30 am

There’s giddiness aplenty in what is believed to be the local community theater debut of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” the Parkside Players attraction that runs through Dec. 1.

Based on a popular 1988 film of the same name, the show (an honest-to-goodness musical comedy!) began a healthy run on Broadway in 2005.

Set on the French Riviera, the story, reminiscent at times of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” follows a pair of con artists, Lawrence and Freddy, who endeavor to dupe every gullible person in sight, both individually and as a team.

In this romp, nobody is as he or she appears to be, and the plot has as many twists and turns and surprises as a murder mystery — with songs and a lot more laughs!

The book is by Jeffrey Lane, and it is quite funny at times, particularly in the stronger first act, and the music and lyrics by David Yazbek are, respectively, tuneful and witty.

Three actors with a flair for the comedic share the stage a great deal of the nearly three-hour running time, and they are quite entertaining.

Mark Dunn as Lawrence is debonair in the Pierce Bronson mold, with enough charm to, well, charm the pants off his intended victims, and he sings pleasantly, to boot. Getting quite the physical workout, Matt Frenzel injects a lot of funny bits into his portrayal of Freddy, Lawrence’s protege, earning many a laugh with his throwaway delivery.

Nearly stealing their thunder is Frank Franconeri as Andre, Lawrence’s bodyguard of sorts, his right-hand man, also the town’s chief of police.

Jenna Kantor, in a variety of wigs and costumes (Sue Lynn Yu did a wonderful job on the latter, providing a wide range of styles, colors and trappings), has her finest moments as Jolene Oakes, an oil heiress who picks Lawrence as her intended. Her big number, “Oklahoma?,” complete with hoedown, is a musical highlight.

Lauren Snyder is given ample opportunity to employ both her dramatic and vocal talents as Muriel, another of Lawrence’s conquests.

And, though a late arrival on the scene, as the apparently naive Christine Colgate, dubiously dubbed the American Soap Queen, Susan Young becomes a major figure in the proceedings — with some tricks up her sleeves that will likely prove a big surprise.

From the opening, an overture that features some of choreographer Jonathan Mora’s finest work in the show, it’s clear this is going to be an uplifting evening (or matinee) in the theater. A rousing comic number, “Give Them What They Want,” follows, setting the tone for what is to unfold.

Other humorous numbers continue the frivolity: the hip-hop-inspired “Great Big Stuff” and “All About Ruprecht,” designed to reverse Jolene’s decision to marry Lawrence, among them.

Musical director Paul L. Johnson and his fellow merry-makers offer ample support, occasionally getting in on the action.

If Act Two never quite captures the pure escapist fun of the show’s first half, that has more to do with the show’s structure than the performance.

With a game cast of fearless actors, director Will Frenzel keeps the frenetic pace going for much of the playing time. The performers double as the set-changing crew, and they are a crackerjack team, making the scene changes as enjoyable as the scenes themselves. The set designed by John O’Hare and Mike Mayo is attractive and offers a few surprises of its own. The lighting (Glenn Rivano) enhances the look, and the sound (also by Rivano) is unusually crisp.

‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’
When: Fri., Nov. 22 and 29, Sat., Nov. 23 and 30, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 1, 2 p.m.
Where: Grace Lutheran Church, 103-15 Union Tpke., Forest Hills
Tickets: $20; $18 seniors, students.
(718)353-7388, parksideplayers.com

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