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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Ordinarily, if something was “dirty” or “rotten,” or if you knew someone was a real “scoundrel,” you’d stay as far away as possible. But this time it would be a mistake. “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” — a musical inspired by the 1988 film of the same name — received 11 Tony Award nominations when it opened on Broadway in March 2005.

The story centers on two con men living in the French Riviera — the suave Lawrence Jameson, who makes his lavish living by bilking rich ladies out of their money, and Freddy Benson, who cons women with stories about his grandmother’s failing health. The Riviera isn’t big enough for both of them, so they make a bet: the first one to swindle $50,000 from a young heiress wins, and the loser must leave town.

Lawrence Jameson was played by Michael Caine in the movie (Steve Martin was Freddy Benson) and John Lithgow on Broadway. We caught up with the touring production’s Lawrence Jameson, Australian actor and comedian Jamie Jackson, for some silly questions.

What’s your favorite con artist movie?

I know it’s corny, but I did love “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” It’s got a great twist, and it’s really funny. I don’t know a lot of those movies, though, to be honest with you. And if you believe any of this, you’ll believe anything.

You’re in the middle of a seven month tour in which you’re performing in more than 25 cities. In what city would Freddy and Lawrence have the most success with their scams?

We had a great time in Nashville. You can become someone else and really pull the wool over someone’s eyes. There are a lot of people in Nashville who are looking to fulfill a dream, so what better place to pull off a scam? Plus we look great in Stetsons.

What’s the worst scam you’ve ever pulled off?

Getting cast in this role. I’ll live to rue saying this, I’m sure.

If you had to choose, would you call yourself “dirty,” “rotten” or a “scoundrel”?

Dirty. We just arrived in Huntsville, Alabama, after an eight hour bus ride from Panama City, and I need a shower.

Did Michael Caine or John Lithgow give you any advice on playing Lawrence?

Yes. Both rang and said the mistake they made was playing the role with hair. They said if they could do it again they’d do it bald, which is no problem for me.

You’re from Australia. Tell me something Americans would be surprised to know about musical theatre in Australia.

Well, that we have musical theatre. And that not all Australian musicals have a kangaroo and a koala, which is a common misconception. Only some do.

Has an Australian ever actually said “put another shrimp on the barbie”?

First of all we don’t call them shrimp, they’re prawns. Shrimps are half an inch long and would be devoured in no time. Prawns are much bigger and we do put them on barbies, and we’re not talking about the dolls.

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