Dirty Rotten Scoundrels debuts tonight

A couple of seasoned grifters competing for swindle supremacy, a naive newcomer with a clean reputation, and a Grammy-nominated jazzy soundtrack - it's dirty, it's rotten, and it's filthy with scoundrels.

The Prince George debut of an international hit musical opens tonight. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was a hilarious movie starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, inspiring a rollicking musical theatre show that has roused a Tony Award on Broadway, Olivier Award nominations in the West End and it is about to win the laughter and applause of local audiences.

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The show is a presentation of the UNBC Musical Productions Club, directed by Veronica Church and musical director Rylee Spencer.

Spencer has been known to also perform on stage in past UNBC shows, but Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is not one of those options.

"Oh my goodness, yes, I'm only focusing on the music, that is my home and I try not to go outside of my box," she said in mock exhaustion. "It's actually a really interesting score and the music is just good, catchy tunes."

There's a little bit of funk, an '80s-style ballad, a country song, but the core of this soundtrack is jazz. It has that brassy sass and improvisation to support the mind games going on with the characters.

The main three are Christine, Lawrence and Freddy. Christine's personality is so squeaky clean her last name is Colgate. Her kind and lovely nature - and her family fortune - are what attract the attention of competing conmen Lawrence (played by Bradley Charles) and Freddy (played by Franco Celli).

"They are trying to extract $50,000 out of her because she is the soap queen of America," said Church.

Lawrence and Freddy each have their techniques for "talking rich ladies out of their money," Church added.

After discovering each other working the same town, they try to work together, but discover the place just isn't big enough for two con artists. Whichever one gets the $50,000 from unsuspecting Christine gets to stay, the other must move on.

"A hilarious battle of cons ensues that will keep audiences laughing, humming and guessing to the end," said Church, and Charles agrees it is a romp of a script.

"I think some people might come to see it twice, because there is a twist ending and people will want to go back and start at the beginning again once they've seen that," he said. "If I wasn't in the show and saw that ending, I'd be coming back to see it all over again."

Much like her character, Christine's actor is new to the city and hasn't established a base of friends yet, but this play is changing that quickly. The part is played by Alex Verge, an English student at UNBC making her Prince George stage debut.

"I just came here this year," she said.

"I was actually going to musical theatre school in Victoria. I've been doing this a long time and I basically can't exist without it. I know nobody, I know nothing about the arts in Prince at all, but I need to do it."

She caught wind that there was a UNBC Musical Productions Club and they had a fundraiser sing-along at a pub that everyone was invited to attend.

She brought her highly trained voice and before the night was through she was on notice that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels would soon be in the works and she should audition.

"It was kind of nice to go from last year (at a formal school for musical theatre): 12-hour days, six days a week, really serious, if you goof off in rehearsal the directors will flay you, which was awesome, but it's nice to come into an environment where it's more fun and everybody is my friend. That's how I made friends here."

She is in capable hands for her introduction to the community's performing arts scene. Charles and Celli have a number of stage and screen credits to their names, Church has also been a performer in recent productions and has become a veteran director with the UNBC club, and many others in the cast and crew have their names in a number of past programs.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opens tonight and runs Saturday, Sunday and March 15, 16 and 17. Each show begins at 7 p.m. at Theatre Northwest.

Tickets are available at the door, or in advance from the Theatre Northwest website or charge by phone at 250-614-0039. Prices are $10 students, $15 community.

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