Dirty Rotten Interview
"The moment that Michael walked into the room and sang ‘Love Sneaks In’ my heart burst and I thought ‘Oh my God. He is going to woo every woman across this country with his charm and elegance.’"
OX Magazine spoke to director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell…
“You’re speaking to a scholar;” Jerry Mitchell began. “I went to Oxford.”
He was joking. But just because he didn’t go to Oxford (he is in fact yet to visit the city) doesn’t mean he hasn’t studied!
“When I started as a Dancer, I was 15, you had to really study classical stuff as well as Tap, Jazz, Ballroom and all the rest…I studied just about everything.”
Aged just 20 Jerry was touring in Chorus Line and his first Broadway appearance was understudying John Curry in Brigadoon – a production in which he also worked with Agnes de Mille.
Jerry first came to London as Associate Choreographer on Follies at the Shaftesbury (with Julia Mckenzie and Diana Rigg). Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has recently finished a run at the Savoy in London. It starred the brilliant Robert Lindsay as Lawrence Jameson; finding a replacement for the tour must have been hard…
“Robert was wonderful. He worked hard and I was a big fan of his from the day I saw him in Me and My Girl way back in the mid-80s. But it was not hard to find a replacement; the moment that Michael [Praed] walked into the room and sang ‘Love Sneaks In’ my heart burst and I thought ‘Oh my God. He is going to woo every woman across this country with his charm and elegance.’
“And he comes at the role from a different perspective to Robert. Robert was a clown, Robert’s a funny guy; Michael is a real suave and elegant man coming at it from the sophisticated side. And I like that in contrast to Noel [Sullivan] who’s turning into a kooky, wonderful and zany Freddy; and that’s the most important thing about those two characters: they have to be from different sides of the fence.”
What about the rest of the cast? “Carley [Stenson] was Elle for me in Legally Blonde; her naivety and vulnerability are wonderful foil for the character of Christine because you’re not expecting it plus she sings beautifully and looks gorgeous. And Mark [Benton] who plays Andre was Edna for me in Hairspray: he’s funny and wonderful. It’s a great cast; the ensemble is sensational, a couple of them I’ve worked with before, others are new, they’re all eager, excited, really important to the show and doing incredible work.”
Scoundrels isn’t the first time Mitchell has turned a film into a stage musical; he did it with The Full Monty, Hairspray, Legally Blonde and most recently Kinky Boots. What can be achieved through doing this?
“The biggest thing a musical has to offer that a film doesn’t is the characters actually sing a score. You have an original score that’s written for the characters to express themselves in song – and also in dance. That doesn’t happen in the films (unless the film is a Musical). So that’s the surprise element for the audience – to see the characters actually sing.
“And David Yazbek’s lyrics for Scoundrels are incredibly funny and clever…I mean clever, clever, clever. ‘Like Zis/Like Zat’ is such a funny song and the rhyming scheme is so incredible and ‘All About Ruprecht’, which was a fabulous scene in the film, is equally as fabulous if not more so when it’s sung and danced in the musical.”
Mitchell will be back in the UK starting in July to work on Kinky Boots in the West End until September. He’ll be making trips out to the Scoundrels tour while he’s here and has already circled Oxford – “I’ve never been there and I’m dying to go.”
Scoundrelsis at Oxford New Theatre 4-8 August