National Operatic & Dramatic Association
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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels


28th January 2017


Harrogate Phoenix Players


Harrogate Theatre

Type of Production



Mark Edwards

Musical Director

Oliver Longstaff




Author: Terry Harrison

I have always thought that adding music to an already successful play, film or novel is a recipe for an even greater success – Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, The Matchmaker/Hello, Dolly!, Kipps/Half a Sixpence and Oliver! being prime examples. Whilst this similar transfer is not without its moments, it is hardly in the same league and its music is certainly not as memorable as in these other scores.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons for an ambitious Society such as this to depart from familiar ground and take on a show which will be new to most of its audience and a challenge to its members. In so doing, they achieved another success, mainly through some excellent work by the six principals on whose performances the show really does depend.

The two con-men of the title, Lawrence and Freddy, eventually have a master and pupil sort of relationship and Oliver Franklin as the latter had an excellent grasp of the cheeky young upstart nature of his character. Mark Sowden as his rather more lugubrious tutor handled the part well, although I would have liked to see a little more of a twinkle in his eye at times. Toni Wood as Christine Colgate, the “American Soap Queen”, appears late in the first act and I felt it was only then that the show came to life. Her assured performance and excellent singing voice as the character who turns out to be yet another of the scoundrels just about enabled her to steal the show let alone any valuables dictated by the plot. There is a subsidiary story in the relationship between Andre (Lawrence’s bodyguard, of sorts) and Muriel (one of Lawrence’s “conquests”, perhaps better described as “victims”) and both of these parts were well handled (James Bullock and Carole Sowden respectively).  Jolene, another of Lawrence’s ladies, is determined to marry him and take him back to Oklahoma, a situation which gives rise to one of the show’s best musical numbers, a hoedown involving virtually the whole company. Gillian Lancaster made the most of her brief opportunity to excel in this cameo role, including a very authentic accent.

The action switches between various locations, resulting in some slick work by the stage crew and, as is usually the case with this Society, a superb orchestra provided excellent support to those on stage.

There were warnings that the show contained adult humour and I have to confess that not all of this was to my taste but this is sometimes an ingredient of a more modern show such as this. The production was well received by the audience and I trust will prove sufficient of a winner to enable the Society to make a donation to its chosen charity, St. Michael’s Hospice. “Scoundrels make money for good cause” would make a good headline.