Most people will remember “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” as a very funny Movie starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine but MUMCO are about to stage the Australian non – professional Premiere of the Musical.
A Casino on the French Riviera, conmen, wealthy ladies….a recipe for mayhem and laughter….that’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!
I caught up with the Director, multitalented Tyler Hess and a few of the leads………..
What inspired Tyler to take on an unusual project like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels?
“When I was approached by the Producers of the company earlier this year, I was actually hesitant on accepting because I am a glutton for traditional musicals. However I have since grown to love Scoundrels because of the complete package deal that it is. Nevertheless there is the odd sprinkle here and there of tradition.”
For a ‘new’ musical, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has a surprisingly long history, and for Tyler, it has been important to ensure that this premiere encapsulates elements from its cinematic development as well as from the Broadway stage adaptation. “We have created a visual concept for the production that is unique and artistic, encapsulating each element of high culture; be it art, postmodern design, fashion and above all chic taste.”
Tyler adds that working with a cast of primarily new talent has provided him with a blank canvas in which to build the production. “I am confident that this experience has provided everyone involved with a forum to extend their skills, be challenged and have a whole lot of fun. Throughout the year I have been inundated with face book invites to amateur shows hosting “big names” and “all star casts”. I can confidently say that audiences will be blown away by the wholesome performances in this production – untarnished by ego, a bunch of performers who have been a pleasure to work with, and will be a pleasure to watch.”
For Lucia Craven who plays Christine it was the music that attracted her to the show. “It’s very catchy. Every song is very unique and individual however each song is incredibly powerful and memorable in its own right.”
For Ashley McPherson who plays Lawrence it was the comedy element, “I’ve worked on a few comedies now and I always have an absolute blast. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels particularly appealed to me because it’s the Australian non-professional premiere and as such there is a lot of scope for us to be really original with the material. It also means that there’ll be plenty of audience members who aren’t familiar with the show, which is kind of exciting. Personally, I’ve never actually seen the movie, so I was pretty vague myself at the start! But I read the basic plotline on Wikipedia and knew it had to be a fantastic show” says Ashley.
Dan Gale who plays Freddy says it was more the combination of knowing how funny the film had been and always having had a desire to be in a musical. “A friend of mine who was running a musical themed radio show convinced me to try out at the auditions, and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Having never been on stage, to start with a show based on a film you know well is a very reassuring thing. The inspiration was more for the chance to perform rather than to perform in DRS specifically, but in all honesty, DRS has been a perfect show for me.”
Following in the footsteps of such great comedy stars as Steve Martin & Michael Caine is a big thing to live up to and I wondered how these three ‘scoundrels’ were approaching it.
Lucia comments, “Well the musical is slightly different to the film however Steve Martin and Michael Caine set the outline for the characters in such a perfect way that you have to live up to them. It’s been great fun watching the creation of the very distinct and hilarious characters for the musical. You could never follow in their footsteps but you definitely look to them for inspiration.”
Ashley felt that Steve Martin and Michael Caine have obviously left very big shoes to fill. “I try to put my own spin on every character I play, so I try not to think about it. I think the audience will be expecting something different from the stage musical as well. What’s also helped is the fact that Tyler’s interpretation of the script has been incredibly original, which makes it a lot easier to resist the temptation to be carbon-copies of the original performers.”
Dan adds, “Playing Freddy, I had a conscious effort from the start to really try not to imitate Steve Martin or Norbert Leo Butz (or Marlon Brando for that matter). All three actors bought a different sort of Freddy to their performance, and I think following in their footsteps would be to try to create a different character from theirs. It’s been an effort not to fall into mimicry, but I’m hoping the work has paid off. Coming into a role with such big shoes to fill has been a challenge, but one I’ve really enjoyed.”
With a show like this there must have been some funny moments in rehearsal, care to share?
Ashley? “My favourite moment so far has definitely been the evening which I spent filming with Tyler and Lucia. I love green screens…
Hmmm sounds interesting. What about Dan?
“This being my debut stage performance, I’m not really savvy on the theatre lingo. I always find it amusing when some term has to be explained in plain English for me when everyone else already seems to know what’s going on. It’s interesting to see how long I can get away with not knowing what the Director or Production Team has actually said. So often I’ve been told to move to ‘O.P.’, nodded my fake understanding, and moved to the wrong side of the stage. It’s probably fair to say I’m a little behind the eight ball in terms of experience. I actually lied on my application form for the DRS auditions because I thought I wouldn’t get cast as a complete newcomer, but despite the crew’s obvious ability to see through the made up names of performances on my fake resume, I was given this chance. Honestly it feels like a long time coming, and I’ve been very lucky to be working with such a group of reassuring people who have allayed my fears and shown confidence in my efforts. I look forward to a long future involvement with theatre, and am very happy that I’ve been given DRS as my first step.”
Lucia wasn’t giving away anything at all! “What happens behind closed doors stays there!” she says.
I see…..very interesting indeed! Determined to pry further I asked about the highlights so far?
Ashley came into the cast a few weeks into the rehearsal period. “I had the unique privilege of being able to sit and watch some of the choreography and blocking that had already been completed. That was a terrific thing to be able to witness – my excitement levels sky-rocketed that night. But nothing beats Sitz Probe! It’s always exhilarating to finally hear the orchestra in all their glory after several weeks of practicing with just a pianist or with backing tracks. I’m sure the show itself will also provide plenty more pleasant memories for us!”
“People will love it,” says Ashley. “Those familiar with the movie will know how clever the story is. But as well as that, the stage script is really witty. There’s also a lot for musical lovers to appreciate – a lot of the songs are extremely catchy. I’ve found myself with a lot of the musical numbers continually running through my head during work hours… in a good way! All in all, the show is huge. We’ve got more than 50 people in the cast; and everyone seems extremely energetic and keen to get out there and do justice to a fantastic script and score. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Lucia has enjoyed the whole process! “It’s been amazing to be given an opportunity to play a fun character let alone be a lead at all, so watching the whole show from 11 weeks ago to now has been just one big highlight for me. The work and passion that has gone into the whole show has been incredible from the whole production team but especially the director, Tyler Hess. His visions and ideas are all highlights of the experience because he always aims for the highest quality, style and dedication which has paid off in the form of a fabulous show that is guaranteed to WOW people. That being said the biggest highlight is the show itself. Every single person will walk away from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with sore stomachs from laughing too much, bedazzled eyes from the sets, props and costumes and sheer amazement of the quality of the production.”
The major highlights Dan feels are absolutely still to come, “but the entire ride has been awesome. The entire cast and crew have been great to work with. I think the cast especially has gelled together as a unit regardless of stage time or role. Everyone involved is very talented and friendly, which has really made every rehearsal a highlight for me. Rehearsal days have been the favorite days in my week and I’ll be sad when it’s all over, but hopefully through our collective effort we can put forward a show that other people can call a highlight as well. I think more than anything, it’ll be a hilarious show. I don’t think there’s a boring minute in the entire two and a half hour production. That being said, I do come with a slight bias, but honestly, if you don’t believe me, come see for yourself! Our director Tyler Hess has taken a great musical and pumped it so full of individual brilliance that we’re still making the rest of the crew laugh at jokes they’ve heard on repeat for the past few months. I’m excited to see the audience reaction and I have a hunch they’ll love the show just as much as we love performing it.”
Audiences will see the result of a lot of hard work and Tyler believes they are going to be pleasantly surprised!
I bet they will be too……sounds like a lot of fun!
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opens on July 29th and runs until August 7th at the Alexander Theatre, Monash University, Clayton.
Bookings can be made through the Alexander Theatre Box Office on 9905 1111 or online at www.monash.edu.au/monart/whatson