Set in the fashionable French Riviera resort town of Beaumont sur Mer, this musical is based on the 1988 cinematic laugh-riot of the same name, which starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine. It tells the story of a sophisticated, middle-aged con man who successfully bilks wealthy women out of their fortunes. The ante is upped when a younger, uncouth flim flam man enters the picture, pretending to apprentice under the older master. They end up in a hilarious duel over the riches and attention of a certain pretty young American soap heiress.
Part of the Broadway in Chicago series, this touring production is somewhat disappointing for audiences familiar with either the film or the Broadway version. While the original stylishly and slowly unfolded with class, this version, with some exceptions, comes off as loud and over-the-top, with a smaller ensemble, a cut-rate version of the set and lighting, less-than-perfect choreography and a synthesized orchestra that often overpowered the actors. Indeed, David Yazbek's catchy, smart lyrics often were, unfortunately, incomprehensible.
Experienced Broadway actor Tom Hewitt capably portrays suave Lawrence Jameson, the expert con man. Hewitt nicely demonstrates Jameson's worldly, man-about-town manner, enhanced by his capably strong singing and dancing ability. John Lithgow originated the role on Broadway, and it's difficult to imagine anyone topping that performance. And while Hewitt does a fairly credible job, we never ultimately care about his character.
D.B. Bonds is less successful in his portrayal of the rough-around-the-edges Freddy Benson, the younger con man. While demonstrating fine vocal talent and the necessary physical flexibility for this role, Bonds mugs and postures, and his attempt to blend in with the style of this musical comedy ultimately feels forced. Laura Marie Duncan makes a capable Christine Colgate, the soap queen, but she's really not much more than the straight man in this comedy.
It's Hollis Resnik, a talented Chicago favorite, who stands out in this production as secondary character Muriel Eubanks, a wealthy, slightly ditzy American millionaire. Hollis' rich, unforced vocals and dry-line delivery, coupled with her sly characterization, simply won the audience. If the entire show had been presented in the same classy style as Miss Resnik’s performance, it would've been much more enjoyable journey.