Southend Operatic and Dramatic Society is a society I have heard of, but I've never seen any of their performances ... much like I have never seen a theatrical production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is probably because SODS is the first local society to perform this show since it has become available to amateur groups.
Of course the musical is based on the 1988 film of the same name staring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, so there are some big shoes to fill.
Taking on the main roles were Scott Roche who played Lawrence Jameson / 'the prance' / Dr Shuffhausen and David Gillet who played Freddy Benson / Ruprecht / Buzz.
Both Scott and David played their roles excellently. There was an obvious rapport between the two, which made their scenes believable and their comedic timing and reactions were spot on. Both were excellent singers as well, favourite numbers of mine being Great Big Stuff and Dirty Rotten Number. Did they match up to Caine and Martin ... almost, and that is high praise indeed.
Supporting the main actors were a whole host of colourful characters: Heather Cooper's Christine Colgate was played so well, her playful innocence hiding her true secret (no spoilers here), Ian Scoging played Lawrence's assistant and chief of police Andre Thibault well, his awkward interactions with Muriel Eubanks, played by Annette McGibbon, were played well and a good contrast to later scenes - a lady behind me commented "I never thought I'd see the one I like in his boxers"! Annette carried off her role superbly as well. The final named role was that of Jolene Oakes, played amazingly well by Laura Gilbert. It would be easy to over-egg this part and make it more of a caricature of an cowgirl, but Laura played it just right. Her reactions in All About Ruprecht were spot on.
The rest of cast all supported the action well, playing a plethora of characters including hotel staff, French train conductors, sailors, tourists and nuns! Favourite company numbers of mine included Give Them What They Want and Oklahoma.
A special mention has to go at this point to the team of 8 lead dancers (along with their male partners at times) and the choreographers. Despite the Palace Theatre stage being fairly large, with the props and scenery (excellent use of video projections by the way), there was at times not much space, but the dancers used the space well.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, like many modern musicals, breaks the fourth wall many times and has many songs directed towards the audience rather than characters. Some societies find this difficult to pull off, being more traditional in their styling, however not so for SODS. Every aside, look & wink was well placed and not over the top.
A final nod has to go to the team that put together the performance, Ian Gilbert as artistic director and Clare Penfold as musical director (the same lady behind me questioned whether there was a live band, but as her friend told her "that woman wouldn't be conducting a recording would she" - the things you hear at the theatre!).
SODS' next production will be Singing in the Rain, 22nd - 25th November.