Monday, January 13, 2014

Central Florida debut of 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels'

     WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — Julia Gagne is making her return to directing with the Central Florida debut of the campy comedy musical “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at the Garden Theatre which premieres on Friday, Jan. 31.

     “The show is funny and above all it’s a lot of fun,” said Gagne. “I think my leads are terrific and I have a wonderful strong cast.”

     “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is a musical comedy that premiered in 2004 and went on to have a successful run on Broadway followed by tours around the U.S. and internationally. This story of two con men that compete to steal $50,000 from a rich young woman is based off the 1988 film by the same name starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine.

     Lead actors involved in this production show much promise as they embrace and develop the characters they will portray. Wesley Slade, who plays the zany Freddy Benson, displays sublime acting chops as he turns from over-the-top slapstick to loveable loser at the drop of a hat. His primary con man competitor, Lawrence Jameson, played by David Almeida is also strongly suited in his comedic and acting ability, and has a brilliant mastery of the several dialects he alternates between throughout the show.

     These two have their work cut out for them as they try to scam the rich heiress Christine Colgate played by the lovely and talented Jillian Gizzi.

     One of the dedicated crewmembers helping Gagne with directorial duties is stage manager Amy Cuccaro. Some of her many responsibilities include coordination of production teams, scheduling of prop purchases, costume customization, and general assistance with all behind-the-scenes action.

     “Julia is highly collaborative, so I do get to collaborate with her on different things,” said Cuccaro. “But mostly I’m there to assist her with anything she needs as far as communication and coordination.”

     Rehearsals for this production began on the first week of December, with a break for cast and crew from Dec. 20 till Jan. 1 for the holidays. Much of the music and choreography was focused on before the holiday break, and since coming back the cast has been working to perfect their lines and blocking before the opening night at the end of this month.

     This show will also feature eight diverse dance numbers that incorporate several movement styles including western, ballroom, jazz and others. This will give a challenge and opportunity for the ensemble and other cast members to show off their versatility.

     “It’s so great for a dancer and choreographer to work like this,” said choreographer Tami Uhrig. “Because the dancers get to do so many styles of dance all combined into one show.”

     Challenges are a part of any musical, but this location has created several hurdles that must be overcome by the cast and crew. The main challenge being the limited access to the theater itself, with only a few weeks of rehearsal time allotted in the space due to other demands. The cast has often gone over blocking and dialog in an adjacent ballroom area and even Winter Garden’s City Hall.

     The Garden Theatre will also be closed off to the cast and crew the weekend before the opening of the play. This is the time normally spent with all the technical run-throughs designed to work on lighting requirements, setting the sound levels, and testing out the microphones worn by cast members. All of this will now have to crunch together with the dress rehearsals before opening night.

     Despite any and all challenges the show must go on, and Gagne is set to utilize her decades of theatrical experience to fix any problems that arise along the way to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

     “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at the Garden Theatre will run from Friday, Jan. 31 until Sunday, Feb. 23. Showtimes will be Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.

     Tickets for general admission will be $29, with a discounted rate of $25 for students and seniors. More information can be found at the Garden Theatre’s website and advanced tickets can be purchased through vendini at this link.

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)


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