TBT’s ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ opens Thursday

Thunder Bay Theatre closes out its spring season with one last comedy, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

Based on the 1988 Steven Martin/Michael Caine movie of the same name, the show moved to the stage as a musical comedy in 2004 with book by Jeffrey Lane and music and lyrics by David Yazbek.

TBT’s show opens Thursday starring veteran actor David Usher and core company member Curtis Brown as the two con men plying their trade on the French Riviera. “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” has long been a favorite of TBT Artistic Director Kevin Reams, who is directing the show and grew up watching all of the old Steve Martin comedies.

“This show is based off of one of my favorite movies,” Reams said. “I used to collect all of Steve Martin’s movies and watch them over and over. I learned comic timing through Steve Martin.”

Reams said audiences should find the humor silly and over-the-top.

Fourteen performers appear in the TBT production, including Usher as Lawrence and Brown as Freddie. Lawrence’s signature con is seducing wealthy women and stealing their money. Freddie, a cocky rival, ultimately moves in on Lawrence’s territory, prompting the two to devise a scheme to settle things once and for all. They agree to pick the same mark, heiress Christine Colgate (company member Puja Tolton), and then compete to see who can swindle her out of $50,000. As per their agreement, the loser must vacate the French Riviera forever.

Filling other major roles in the show are Nickie Hilton, Bill Powell and Carol Rundell. Playing ensemble members of the cast are Hannah Matzke, Zach Clement, Nick Hartman, Conor Larkin, Colin Marshall, Dorothea Gottschall and Kristen Mainka.

Core company members, who along with appearing in the show also handle many other production responsibilities, said “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” has involved coming up with lots of costume changes and props. The eight ensemble members each play multiple characters, necessitating many wardrobe changes.

“There are 200 costume pieces,” said Brown, doing double-duty as the show’s costumer. “This show is very large scale. I pulled a lot of things from our stock and also borrowed some from Alpena Civic Theatre.”

Hilton, on props, stocked three full tables of props needed throughout the course of the show. They include everything from hair dryers, a fish bowl and shopping bags to an accordion, roulette wheel and all types of food.

Bunny Lyon serves as musical director and also plays piano in the pit band, along with Paul Conger on drums, Pat Altman on bass and Kristine Burrone on clarinet. The music for the show covers a wide range of styles.

“The show borrows from many different styles,” said Tolton. “All the songs are different. Everyone is a show stopper. There’s an eighties number, a country number, even a yodeling number.”

“But somehow it all goes together well,” added Reams.

Choreographing the various numbers were Lara Dunleavy Torres and Matzke.

For the set, Technical Director Joseph Simpson went with a fairly simple concept to keep the pace of the show fast and to accommodate the space needed for dancing. Even so, he said the audience can expect to see beds appear out of walls, secret doorways, lots of drapery and rich fabric, and a massive set of French doors that serve as a major entry point for the cast.

“We had to keep it fairly simple so the show is able to move along quickly,” Simpson said.

Performances of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” are set for April 24-27 and May 1-4. Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations, call the box office at 354-2267.