Entertainment :: Theatre

Director Richard Stafford tames scoundrels

by Lewis Whittington
Contributor
Wednesday Sep 23, 2009
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Philly has more than its share of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; in fact, they are currently onstage at The Walnut Street Theater for the musical version of the Steve Martin - Michael Caine film. The music and lyrics are by David Yazbek (The Full Monty) with a book by Jeffrey Lane.

The musical, which opened in January 2005, was nominated for 11 Tony Awards. It ran for 18 months for a total of 666 performances.

This production opens the Walnut’s 201st season and stars Ben Dibble and Paul Schoeffler as those smooth operators who try to fleece a soap heiress (played by Jessica Rush) on the French Riviera.

Richard Stafford is directing the onstage mayhem. He had this to say to EDGE.

EDGE: How much fun was doing this show with this cast?

Richard Stafford: I loved, loved, loved working on this show with this cast. I had no idea, going into it, what fun we’d all have as a group. Not a day went by where we ALL didn’t laugh out loud a lot.

EDGE: What did you want to bring differently for the WST production?

Richard Stafford: I had seen the show on Broadway but, other than enjoying myself, didn’t remember so much of the physical production. I wanted something beautiful and a place with a lot of feminine energy--a place where a woman would feel beautiful--a grand staircase, lots of appealing colors, textures and jewelry. A lot of opulence. Also, I wanted a certain wackiness to the choreography.

EDGE: Do you usually like to wear both hats as director and choreographer?

Richard Stafford: My associate is Jonathan Stahl. He is an incredibly talented choreographer in his own right. We worked on the show together. So, in answer to your question, it’s a big hat with plenty of room to share.

EDGE: What is the main appeal of this show- the music, story or is it the con men?

Richard Stafford: Using a line from the show "yes". It really is all three. The music and lyrics are SO clever, really smart, funny and catchy. So, right away the audience is happy. The story is unusual for a music... con men... really? How can you care about con men. But, as the show progresses, you laugh so hard at the extent they’ll both go to out do the other, that you are very caught up in their world.

EDGE: A word or two about your leads?

Richard Stafford: Paul Schoeffler couldn’t be more perfect and Ben Dibble is a delight in every way. Jessica Rush can do no wrong, Fran Prisco invented funny and Mary Martello is simply the divine one.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels runs October 25, 2009 @ the Walnut Street Theatre, 25 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. For more information visit the Walnut Street Theatre website.


215-574-3550 | www.walnutstreettheatre.org

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.

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