Dinner Theatre Review: Nothing “Dirty” or “Rotten” about it!
The Candlelight Theatre’s mantra is “Dining and Entertainment, Beyond Your Expectations” and I must say, those words ring true. I had the privilege of attending their opening weekend of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Book by Jeffrey Lane and Music/Lyrics by David Yazbek) with the Sunday matinee. My friend and I took part in the whole shebang of food, drink, and entertainment!
Let’s start with the amazing smorgasbord of entrées. Pesto Ravioli, Beef Tips, Ginger Meatballs, Chicken Cordon Blue, Pork BBQ, and a few other delectable I didn’t get on to my plate. Of course, plenty of sides like rice, mashed potatoes, and vegetables to pair up with your entrée(s). They also have a full salad bar that includes the biggest hit of every table: peel and eat shrimp! I saw mounds, plate after plate throughout the dining hall theatre.
My theatre companion and I were sat at a table for 8 that included three other couples. It appeared that at least one couple was attending The Candlelight for the first time. We all seemed to be enjoying the options on our plates. Of my samplings, I think the Pesto Ravioli and Chicken Cordon Blue were my favorites. I did take advantage of the shrimp like my counterparts, but they didn’t really wow me like I would have wished. A bit tough and too room temp for my liking.
Even though stuffed to the gills from dinner, I couldn’t pass up the desert station. Pie after pie and some cakes mixed in too. I opted for just one, the cherry cheesecake. And it most certainly didn’t disappoint! They also have a brownie sundae for an additional fee served only at intermission. I forgot they had it when our wait staff (also actors in the show) came around before the show started to ask if we wanted anything else. I certainly couldn’t have eaten it, but wanted to give it a try for our readers. You know, for the people! (That’s the story I would have used!)
As a musical theatre lover, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is not a musical I had been familiar with. I certainly knew a few songs from listening to cast albums and Broadway radio but this was my first foray into the musical story.
Music Theatre International promotes DRS as:
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, based on the popular 1988 MGM film, takes us to the French Riviera for high jinks and hilarity. Sophisticated, suave with a good dash of mischief, this hysterical comedy features a delightfully jazzy score by David Yazbek (The Full Monty) and was nominated for a staggering eleven Tony Awards.
Lawrence Jameson makes his lavish living by talking rich ladies out of their money. Freddy Benson more humbly swindles women by waking their compassion with fabricated stories about his grandmother’s failing health. After meeting on a train, they attempt to work together, only to find that this small French town isn’t big enough for the two of them. They agree on a settlement: the first one to extract $50,000 from a young female target, heiress, Christine Colgate, wins, and the other must leave town. A hilarious battle of cons ensues that will keep audiences laughing, humming and guessing to the end!”
It was refreshing to see a bevy of new talent making their debuts at The Candlelight such as Larry Lees (Lawrence), Tristan Horan (Freddy), and Morgan Sichler (Christine) as the main three characters as well as Connie Pelesh (Muriel) and Allison Boyle (Jolene) in secondary, yet show stealing, roles. Under the direction of Peter Reynolds, the diverse cast brought about a joyful and humorous telling of a musical caper.
It is clear that director Peter Reynolds was influenced by Broadways original duo of John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz with the casting of Lees and Horan, respectively. The sophistication and pinache that Larry Lees brings to the stage was a serious reincarnation of Lithgow himself. Whereas the joie de vivre that Tristan Horan brings to the role of Freddy was absolutely worth the price of admission. I’ve seen this “kid” perform on stage before in youthful productions in the area but not in a professional atmosphere. Channeling the very best of Steve Martin (Freddy from the motion picture), Butz, and a splash of Martin Short, Horan proves that physical comedy is very much alive and well and he has the vocal chops to match. Music Director, Gina Giachiero, should be elated.
Although a smidge young for the role of Christine, newcomer Morgan Sichler was a sheer delight. Knocking it out of the park and making a name for herself is Allison Boyle’s Jolene who sadly only appears in Act One. She’s ready to headline her own show and I’d be happy to sit front row and watch her wow the crowd. Let me not forget the subtle and refreshing sidekick, Andre Thibault, played by Tim Moudy. Surprised to read that he was only “The Fork’ in last year’s Beauty and the Beast. Last but not least, we were dazzled by Connie Pelesh who takes blonde bombshell to a whole new level with Muriel Eubanks wearing one colorful jumpsuit after another!
There are several locations that this story takes us. With the set design by Jeff Reim, they provided one overall concept with multiple pieces that were able to move to create a new world without having to halt the show. Move a plant here, turn a stair there, and you have the audience understanding clearly that you are in a new place without having to have mundane scene changes. I come from a world where less is more and Reynolds and Reim married that concept beautifully on the French Riviera.
Tara Bowers costumes blended well, for the most part, with the Riviera. At times there was a color that seemed off from the rest of the pallet among the ensemble drawing attention when not intentional. Matthew Kator’s lighting design was effective in telling of temperature and time but was hindered with the lack of instruments. As the set was two levels and scenes were played far upstage as well as down, there were often patches of darkness. It was clear that if there were more instruments, his full design would have come to fruition. However, it was a nice graduation in design from past productions I have seen and subsequently reviewed. The same can be said of the sound design by Dennis Mahoney. The balance was clear and the orchestrations were evenly distributed. A much appreciated improvement. I would add, if possible, more microphones for the ensemble as even when singing together, was often challenging to grab the power of a good chorus.
Some stand out music numbers include Horan’s “Great Big Stuff, Horan and Sichler’s “Love is my Legs”, and Boyle’s “Oklahoma”. Colleen Kreisl’s choreography was well executed and catered to a cast of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. Paired with Kator’s LED design, it was delightful storytelling in its own right.
Overall, I had a truly wonderful day at the theatre. Attending a production at The Candelight Theatre is an all-day/evening event however, you can opt out of the meal and purchase show only tickets if you prefer. (Keep your eye on Goldstar for half price tickets or follow them on Social Media for some last-minute specials!) For my performance, the buffet opened at 1pm with a 3pm curtain. My guest and I didn’t arrive until 1:30 or so which was ample time to enjoy a meal and a cocktail prior to the main event.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels runs every weekend until February 25th! Some performances are already sold out. Not suitable for children. Mature themes and language.
The Candlelight Dinner Theatre
2208 Millers Rd, Wilmington, DE 19810
Anne Marie holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Kutztown University. She has worked professionally in Philadelphia and Delaware County in stage management, directing, and producing. She is the owner of Nightcap Cabaret, Philadelphia’s philanthropic cabaret company. Over the past 20 years, Anne Marie has worked with Mazeppa Productions, The Walnut Street Theatre, Upper Darby Summer Stage, Encore Entertainment, Rockwell Productions, Media Theater, Players Club of Swarthmore, and Narberth Community Theatre, among others. Anne Marie served as a Barrymore nominator for Theatre Philadelphia for the 16/17 season and currently serves as an adjudicator for Philadelphia Independence Awards.
She is currently Editor-in-chief for Philly Review.
Instagram and Twitter @annemarie0817