Dirty Rotten Tour Sheds Its Hiatus Cocoon and Emerges With a Makeover

News   Dirty Rotten Tour Sheds Its Hiatus Cocoon and Emerges With a Makeover Tanned, rested and ready, the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels tour that shut down in late 2006 and switched to a more cost-effective "tiered" Equity contract, is back on the road.

"We reopened in Appleton, WI, two weeks ago [Jan. 16] to great reviews and had a solid week in Pittsburgh — $660,000 gross," producer Marty Bell told Playbill.com Jan. 30. "Though we went to an Equity tier contract, we kept four of our five principals, including Tom Hewitt and Laura Marie Duncan and only replaced four ensemble members."

Launched Aug. 4, 2006, in Seattle, the national tour of Broadway's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels went on hiatus Dec. 17 for a re-tool of its physical production and a switch to a new Equity contract in an effort to make it more profitable.

The tour of the Jack O'Brien-directed, Jerry Mitchell-choreographed musical comedy got better reviews than its original Broadway production. Librettist Jeffrey Lane and songwriter David Yazbek penned the 2005 Broadway show, based on the hit film.

Variety cooed, and the Los Angeles Times, which didn't like the musical in its Southern California tryout two years ago, raved.

"We tried to send out a production that had the same quality as the Broadway show, with the full Broadway set and everything, and the current market on the road can't support that," producer Marty Bell previously told Playbill.com. "So, we have to downsize the physical production so that it's easier to load-in and easier to travel, and go to an Equity tier contract." Per Equity rules, all company members were offered their jobs back — albeit under a different, lower pay scale. The show was re-rehearsed in New York and started up again in Appleton, with Tony Award nominee Hewitt as suave con man Lawrence Jameson, newcomer D.B. Bonds as crass Freddy Benson; Laura Marie Duncan as heiress Christine Colgate; Hollis Resnik as Omaha divorcee Muriel Eubanks; Drew McVety as accomplice Andre; and newcomer Paige Pardy as Oklahoma heiress Jolene (Jenifer Foote originated the role on tour).

The ensemble includes Todd Anderson, Tim Craskey, Jeremy Davis, Christopher DeAngelis, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Christopher Freeman, Brenda Hamilton, Derric Harris, Emily Loftiss, Natalie Nucci, Jim Osorno, Jennifer Rias, Tally Sessions, Kim Shriver, Nicole Van Giesen and Christian Whelan. The Light in the Piazza and other touring shows were launched in the tier system. It's more unusual to switch from production contract to a tiered contract, which is what Dirty Rotten did.

Bell said, "Because of our experience and what we have accomplished, I think you will see some of the newer shows going out on a tier contract from the get-go."

Is it a radical new physical production on the road?

Bell said they "maintained the deck and turntables and the physical production remains first rate."

He added, "The only change is, we made some hard walls into soft pieces, but they are beautifully painted and look gorgeous."

Bell applauds Equity. "We were only able to do this ourselves because of the new Equity tiered touring contract," he said. "Without it, we would have had to turn the show over to a non-union producing organization, which is what producers have done in the past to lower costs. Instead, the original producers were able to continue with the show they love and able to keep an Equity company."

Bell said he's "grateful that the League [of American Theatres and Producers] and Equity came up with a format that allows us to keep Equity actors."

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opened in Raleigh, NC, Jan. 30.

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"Based on the popular 1988 MGM film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels centers on two con men living on the French Riviera — the suave and sophisticated Lawrence Jameson, who makes his lavish living by talking rich ladies out of their money; and a small-time crook named Freddy Benson, who, more humbly, swindles women by waking their compassion with fabricated stories about his grandmother's failing health," according to production notes. "After meeting on a train, they unsuccessfully attempt to work together only to find that this small French town isn't big enough for the two of them. So they make a bet: the first one to swindle $50,000 from a young heiress, triumphs and the other must leave town. What follows are a series of schemes, masquerades and double-crosses in which nothing may ever be exactly what it seems."

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 2005, including Best Musical.

The Dirty Rotten Scoundrels national tour is produced by The Dirty Rotten Producers in association with MGM ON STAGE. The executive producers are Marty Bell and Aldo Scrofani.

When the national tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels began its run Aug. 4 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, fans already armed with the Broadway cast album pricked up their ears. The light, jazzy opening number "Give Them What They Want," heard on Broadway, was gone — replaced by "The Only Game in Town."

When the tour launched, it featured Norbert Leo Butz recreating his Tony Award-winning performance as Freddy. Timothy Gulan then took over the role. D.B. Bonds plays it now, post-hiatus.

Visit www.dirtyrottenscoundrelsthemusical.com.

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Upcoming stops on the national tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels include Sarasota, FL (Feb. 6-11), Charlotte, NC (Feb. 13-18), Norfolk, VA (Feb. 20-25), Providence, RI (Feb. 27-March 4), Boston (March 6-11), Buffalo (March 20-25), St. Louis (March 27-April 8), San Antonio, TX (April 10-15), Tucson, AZ (April 17-22), Salt Lake City (April 24-29), San Jose, CA (May 1-13), Sacramento, CA (May 16-27), Hartford (June 5-10), Cleveland (June 12-24), Kansas City (June 26-July 1), Portland, OR (July 10-15), San Diego (July 17-22), Fort Worth (July 24-29), Chicago (July 31-Aug. 12), Milwaukee (Aug. 14-19).

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