After its Aug. 4 start in Seattle, 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 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.
Nevertheless, cancellations of engagements in three cities — Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Minneapolis — have been announced.
The company shuts down Dec. 17 after its run in Ft. Myers, FL.
"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 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." Bell said that per Equity rules, the entire company will be offered their jobs back — albeit under a different, lower pay scale — and the re-tooling of the show (in New York rehearsals) will be "under the auspices of" Jack O'Brien and Jerry Mitchell, the show's original director and choreographer.
"They've got assistants who have been working with them on it…they'll do it, and Jack and Jerry'll come in and do the final work on it," Bell said.
Equity has agreed to the shift from production contract to the tiered contract, Bell said. The Light in the Piazza and other 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 is doing.
"I'm grateful that the League [of American Theatres and Producers] and Equity came up with a format that allows us to keep Equity actors," Bell said.
The consolation, of sorts, is that the company can be home for the holidays. Tom Hewitt and Timothy Gulan head the tour cast as the title con-men who bilk women out of money on the French Riviera.
Discussions are under way to re-book the three cancelled Midwest engagements on the back-end of the tour.
The cast was told of the planned changes during the show's recent engagement in Atlanta.
The reconceived show will resume Jan. 16, 2007, in Appleton, WI, at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.
The current company also includes Drew McVety as accomplice Andre; Laura Marie Duncan as heiress Christine Colgate; Hollis Resnik as Omaha divorcee Muriel; and Jenifer Foote as Oklahoma rich girl Jolene.
"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."
The tour company also includes Todd Anderson, Tim Crasky, Beth Curry, Christopher DeAngelis, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Christopher Freeman, Rod Harrelson, Ken Krugman, Juliana Laufer, Emily Loftiss, Natalie Nucci, Martin Samuel, Kim Shriver, Sarrah Strimel, Jim Osorno, Francis Toumbakaris and Nicole Van Giesen.
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."