Broadway musicals based on nonmusical films have a spotty history, with more clinkers (such as Big and The Goodbye Girl) than gems (such as Applause, based on All About Eve). Director Jack O'Brien, composer-lyricist David Yazbeck, and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who collaborated to smashing effect on the 1992 stage adaptation of the British working-class film The Full Monty, reunited to adapt a comedy filmed in 1964 as Bedtime Story and in 1988 as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Once again they've been graced by the gods of creative serendipity. This sinfully delicious confection (book by Jeffrey Lane) harks back to the days when fun-filled musicals were the norm. A combination of scintillatingly funny low-comedy shenanigans, a sprightly score, and a stylish veneer result in an irresistible lark. And the classy touring edition is grade A all the way.
Two lecherous grifters meet on the French Rivera. The mock-suave Lawrence Jameson (Tom Hewitt) and the seedy, impish Freddy Benson (Norbert Leo Butz) decide to team up, but when they realize how different their styles are, they compete to see who can be the first to seduce soap heiress Christine Colgate (Laura Marie Duncan) and scam her out of $50,000. The victor will remain in this fertile flimflam territory; the loser must depart for other pastures. Repeating the role that won him a Tony plus other major honors, the uproarious Butz is at the forefront of a crackerjack ensemble. In an extra-energetic performance that feels so spontaneous one could swear it's improvised-while recognizing its meticulous polish-his brilliant work evokes the vaudevillian-inspired technique of great clowns such as Zero Mostel. Hewitt holds his own as the oily con man, using a bag full of ingenious tricks that range from hilarious dialects to masterful morsels of physical comedy. As the mysterious heroine, Duncan likewise sings and cavorts with élan. Hollis Resnik, Drew McVety, and Jenifer Foote lend first-rate support.
Ted Sperling's rousing musical direction and Mitchell's spry choreography make the most of Yazbek's witty and zesty songs, and the design elements glisten with eye-popping splendor. It's hard to remember when something this down-and-dirty-Mel Brooks meets the Farrelly Brothers-equated to such unbridled, knee-slapping fun.
Presented by Broadway LA in association with MGM On Stage/Darcie Denkert & Dean Stolber at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Tue.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 7 8 p.m., Sun. 1 & 6:30 p.m. Aug. 15-27. (213) 365-3500. www.broadwayla.org. Also at Segerstrom Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa. Tue.-Fri. 7:30 p.m., Sat. 2 & 7:30 p.m., Sun. 1 & 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29-Sep. 10. (714) 556-2787. www.ocpac.org.