It Was a Ball, It Was a Blast: Lithgow Plays His Final Dirty Rotten Performance

News   It Was a Ball, It Was a Blast: Lithgow Plays His Final Dirty Rotten Performance
John Lithgow, a Tony Award nominee for playing smooth-talking con man Lawrence Jameson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, hangs up his linen suit Jan. 15, when he reaches the end of his contract and exits the musical at the Imperial Theatre.
John Lithgow in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
John Lithgow in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Sara Gettelfinger, who plays vulgar oil heiress Jolene Oakes, also departs the show Sunday, heading toward the world premiere musical, Grey Gardens, at Playwrights Horizons.

Mylinda Hull (42nd Street) slips on the boots of Jolene Jan. 17, and Lithgow's pal from the 1977 Broadway run of Comedians, Jonathan Pryce, assumes the role of Lawrence Tuesday.

Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz (who won the Best Actor Tony for Dirty Rotten in 2005) were perhaps the most chemistry-rich musical comedy couple since Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick's partnership in The Producers. Lithgow and Butz brought down the house nightly, singing composer David Yazbek's show-capping "Dirty Rotten Number," a rare 11-o'clock song for male musical comedy characters.

In it, Lithgow sings:

It was a ball
It was a blast
And it's a shame it couldn't last,
But every chapter has to end,
You must agree.
It was a joy,
It was sublime,
A splendid way to earn a dime
For a dirty rotten guy like me!
Butz continues in the role of Freddy, the rough-hewn con man Lawrence tries to mold. Pryce, the star of London's most recent My Fair Lady, told that the Higgins-style role of Lawrence is what attracted him to the project.

Lithgow won the Best Actor (Musical) Tony for his turn as cruel columnist JJ Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success, and was nominated for Best Actor (Play) for the family drama, The Retreat From Moscow.

During the run, Lithgow reveled in the range that his con-man had to play: An exiled royal, a sadistic Germanic shrink and (when he falls for his mark, Christine Colgate) vulnerable lover.

For Dirty Rotten, David Yazbek penned music and lyrics, Jeffrey Lane wrote the book, and Jack O'Brien directed. Jerry Mitchell is the choreographer.

Lithgow is heard in the original cast album of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Pryce will keep company with Sherie Rene Scott, Gregory Jbara and Joanna Gleason, who continue in their original Dirty Rotten roles.


Jonathan Pryce won the Best Actor (Musical) Tony Award for his starring role as the status-starved, capitalism-crazed schemer, the Engineer, in Miss Saigon. For his Broadway debut in Comedians (1977), he received the Tony Award and Theatre World Award.

Pryce's film credits include Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" and "The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen," "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Tomorrow Never Dies," "Evita," "Carrington" (Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award) and "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." He will also appear in two sequels to the franchise.

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