Young ‘Scoundrels’ take the stage in Theatre Aspen production
The Aspen Times
If You Go …
What: ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,’ presented by Theatre Aspen Winter Conservatory
When: Thursday, Dec. 17-19, 7 p.m.; also Dec. 19, 2 p.m. matinee
Where: Aspen District Theatre
How much: $20/adults; $12/students
A cast of Roaring Fork Valley teens are playing “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and their dupes in a Theatre Aspen School production of the Tony-winning musical.
Based on the 1988 Steve Martin-Michael Caine movie, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” follows two globe-trotting con men attempting to out-con one another. Theatre Aspen’s production opens Thursday night at the District Theatre and runs through Saturday.
“It’s just so funny,” said Theatre Aspen education director Graham Northrup, who also directs the show. “There’s a lot of clever, witty, verbal humor. But then there’s a lot of slapstick, too. I’m very excited to put it up in front of an audience.”
Putting on a crowd-pleasing show is the goal, of course, but it’s also a training ground for some young local actors hoping to make a life in the theater. Northrup chose “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” in part, because it has six “plum roles” for the more advanced teen actors in the Theatre Aspen program along with strong ensemble parts for the younger ones, and opportunities for dancers and choral singers.
“This conservatory really prepares you for going on from here,” said Beth Fawley, a 17-year-old actress and Roaring Fork High School student, who plays the gullible heiress Christine Colgate (and who audiences will recall from her recent Silly Girl turn in Aspen Community Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast” and as Fiona in last winter’s Theatre Aspen School production of “Shrek”). “Whether that’s school or professional work, they hold you to a professional standard and expect that level of work from you.”
In the process of putting on shows, the teen actors have learned rehearsal etiquette, are expected to know all their lines once the staging is blocked and are generally held to the standards of pros. Several of the actors — the cast features 20 Roaring Fork Valley teens from 7th to 12th grade — began rehearsing for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” while simultaneously performing in “Beauty and the Beast.”
Emery Major, an 18-year-old Aspen actor most recently seen stealing scenes as Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast,” perfected no less than four foreign accents to play the lead role of flim-flam man Lawrence in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” He already had a British accent in his repertoire, through prior voice work with Northrup for the 2013 Theatre Aspen School production of “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Hitting his notes while playing German and some of the others has been a new trial.
“Choosing which accent to do and which words to emphasize has been a challenge but a lot of fun,” Major said.
It’s a big, complex show with 22 songs and five major dance numbers. So big, in fact, that the student company upped its rehearsals from three days per week to five midway through the eight-week rehearsal process.
Along with some of the cast, the two-tiered “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” set may look familiar to local theatergoers. Its been repurposed from the fall production of “Beauty and the Beast” — a grand staircase remains, the rest has been painted over and reworked with different entrances. The Theatre Aspen School Tech Company — a group of young people learning the ins and outs of lighting, costumes, set construction and props — renovated it for the show.
“Beauty and the Beast” director Marisa Post also is on hand for the Theatre Aspen production as its choreographer. On Tuesday night, before a full run-through of the show, Post gave notes as Major and Fawley practiced a duet.
Northrup, looking on from the back of the theater, said he wants the conservatory to prepare gifted, young, Broadway-hopeful actors like them for the next steps in the theater.
“For people like these two, who are moving on to professional or collegiate careers, when they leave us and step into that, we want them to say, ‘Oh, we remember this. This is how we’ve always done it.’”