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Camelot Theatre opens 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' The Musical

The dichotomy between two con men who make their livings on the French Riviera drives the comedy in the sexy and irreverent musical "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

The suave, sophisticated Lawrence Jameson has persuaded wealthy women to fund his trumped-up political cause for years. The unpolished Freddy Benson swindles women out of money with fabricated stories about his grandmother's failing health.

"Lawrence and Freddy couldn't be more different," says Erik Connolly, who plays the role of Jameson in Camelot Theatre's production. "Lawrence sees his occupation of swindling as a high art form. He sees taking money from bored, rich heiresses or widows searching to escape their ennui as a service by giving them the spark in their lives that's missing. It's a funny wrinkle in Lawrence's character. It's the quid pro quo that lets him sleep at night. He feels he's given the women the time of their lives — and they finance his lifestyle, which is very high end."

When Benson arrives on the scene, the two men immediately clash, and Jameson does all he can to rid his lovely town of Benson. Finally they attempt to work together.

"Lawrence is getting a little tired of the game," Connolly says. "Freddy exhibits a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed eager sort that Lawrence is missing in himself. It's a Pygmalion dynamic, very much Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, except that Lawrence first underestimates just how advanced Freddy is in the trade. He comes off as just another ugly American, but that's misleading."

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" — with music and lyrics by David Yazbek ("The Full Monty") and book by Jeffrey Lane — opens Friday, Sept. 2, at Camelot, 101 Talent Ave., Talent, and runs through Oct. 2. Shows are set for 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 2. Tickets are $18 to $36. A performance to benefit Medford Soroptimist International Club will show at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31. Tickets are $25 and available only at Paddington Station in Ashland, Country Quilts in Jacksonville, Judy's Central Point Florist, Medford Visitors Center next to the Harry & David store on Center Drive, or members of Soroptimist Medford. Call 541-973-4186. A pay-what-you-can show will be Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Eoghan McDowell plays Benson in Camelot's production, and Sabrina Hebert plays Christine, the young heiress that Jameson and Benson target. Olivia Harrison directs.

"From the moment I picked up the script for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, I knew the theater company was about to embark on an incredibly fun, hilarious, and challenging adventure," Harrison writes in her director's notes. "Lawrence is as smooth as butter and executes his craft with elegance, taste and brilliant manipulation, while the younger Freddy moves through his cons like a bull in a china shop.

"If you put these two men in a room, you can’t help but find a beautiful and interesting competition full of silly, sharp, and creative comedy. Just imagine what can happen when you add an intelligent, sincere and beautiful woman to the mix who keeps up with them at every turn."

This musical based on the Academy Award-winning film was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and 10 Drama Desk Awards. Actor Norbert Leo Butz won the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical and the Drama Desk for Outstanding Actor in a Musical.

"The lyrics are as clever as I've ever seen," Connolly says. "They would make Gershwin and Porter proud, in a naughtier sort of way. Yazbek's music hearkens back to a classic American musical sound, with a kind of Henry Mancini color to it. It's a modern musical with a throwback sound. The lyrics — at times PG13 — seem to clash with the music, while attracted to each other in a beautiful kind of wedding.

"With the book written by Jeffrey Lang, he and Yasbek on are on the same page," Connolly adds. "The script is very rich. It's not just dialogue to advance the plot to the next song. It's as much a star of the show as anything else. It's as clever and and thought-out as Yasbek's music and lyrics. They're a good match.

"This was a very successful musical on Broadway, and it's been done all over the place," Connolly says. "There's a reason for that. It's one of the funniest musicals you'll see."

Choreography is by Kayla Garrett, and musical direction is by Michael Wing. Other cast members include Shannon Carter, Jasmin Evans, Carrie Ann Eve, Jake Hastings, Joey Larimer, Amanda McGee, Erny Rosales, Eric Solis, Dylan Spooner and Peter Wickliffe.

Erik Connolly and Eoghan McDowell star as Lawrence Jameson and Freddy Benson, respectively, in Camelot Theatre's production of 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,' opening Friday, Sept. 2 and running through Oct. 2. Photo by Steve Sutfin