'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' proves the con is still on

Steven Meerdink, Stacey Lindell and Joe Bombard.

Steven Meerdink, Stacey Lindell and Joe Bombard.

​Most remember Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as a Steve Martin/Michael Caine comedy from the 1980s about a couple of tricksters who work the French Riviera, conning folks along the way. Fewer probably remember the 2005 Broadway musical that ran for a time, had a couple of tours, and then disappeared from view.

Leave it to the fine folks at Minneapolis Musical Theatre to bring the piece, at last, to the Twin Cities with a production opening Friday at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis. While making final adjustments for the debut, I caught up with Steven Meerdink, the company's artistic director and one of the stars, and Lori Maxwell, the show's director.

What drew you to the material? I remember the show opening with quite a splash a few years ago, but it seemed to drop off the radar after that?

Steven Meerdink: It's a very funny script and scenario. Having seen the show on Broadway, it has a wonderful sense of the old-fashioned musical, and yet brings a more modern subject matter to the stage. The musical actually began to tour but became too expensive and subsequently ended. Since it never came to Minneapolis, it ends up being a perfect fit with MMT's mission statement.

There are plenty of movie-based musicals out there right now. What sets this one apart? How closely does it follow the tone of the original film? Is that something you've tried to preserve here, or have you looked to go out in your own direction?

SM: The tone of the original movie is in this stage musical and I think that is one of the things that sets it apart from other 'screen to stage' musicals. Because the original stage was a bit more broad, it adapts very well.  The tone of the movie is inherent in the stage script and we have tried to play into that as well.

Lori Maxwell: The musical follows the movie almost to the T. They have even preserved sections of the original screenplay dialogue. Our production remains true to the "con" and the notion that not everyone or everything is what it first appears to be. 

Who do you have in the two leads, and what have they brought to the roles?

SM:  Joseph Bombard and myself are playing Freddy Benson and Lawrence Jameson.  Although I won't comment on myself, I can say that Joseph is a unique find and we are always glad to have him performing with MMT.  He is brilliant at playing comedy and yet making his characters believable. You absolutely believe his character would do exactly what he does. 

LM: They are the perfect combination of shtick and stature although each of them gets to play around in the land of over-the-top characters, personas, and accents.

What do you think audiences will get out of the experience?

SM: We think audiences are going to have a lot of fun. This show is great for a summer evening out. This musical offers hilarious situations, interesting characters, a variety of musical numbers, and some touching moments as well.

LM: A good time! I hope they leave the theater trying to remember the last time they laughed that hard.