“Working with Jerry Mitchell is one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my life.”
That’s quite some statement when you realise it comes from Samantha Bond, the British actress who played Miss Moneypenny in the Bond franchise, starred in Downton Abbey and has been directed by everyone from Kenneth Branagh to Richard Eyre on stage.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, though, in which she is directed by Mitchell, is her first musical. The American director and choreographer, who, Bond says, “arrives like this explosion of energy”, is drawing three decade old ballet knowledge that she forgot she knew from the actress, while the ensemble is “collectively one of the most extraordinary ensembles I have ever witnessed”.
Bond is talking to Official London Theatre at a special open rehearsal of the Broadway musical that will make its London debut at the Savoy Theatre his spring.
According to co-star Robert Lindsay, he and Bond were “really against” allowing anyone into the sanctity of the rehearsal room to see an unfinished product. With the adrenalin pumping and an audience eager to be impressed, though, the Olivier Award winner came through the ordeal unscathed, even seeing its positives.
Helen Maybanks’ images capture the cast performing a quartet of production numbers from the upcoming musical about a pair of rival con artists working on the French Riviera. They showcased the show’s cheeky wit, the grand scale of the dance routines and the sweet love story between Bond’s Muriel Eubanks and John Marquez’s Andre Thibault.
Chipping in his own views on the romance, Rufus Hound, who, like Bond, makes his musical theatre debut with the production, said: “The relationship between Sam Bond and John Marquez will charm you within a sliver of yourself.”
The former One Man, Two Guvnors lead, better known as a TV comedian, has, he says, previously been offered a musical theatre opportunity, but didn’t take it as he didn’t like the songs. “I love musical theatre,” he told us. “When I go to musical theatre I demand that you have given some thought into pleasing me. It’s meant to be a pleasurable experience… I’ve given you good money to cheer me up for two and a half hours.”
When he first auditioned for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels the Let’s Dance For Sport Relief winner was unsure about whether vocally he could achieve the heights demanded by the production. But, he said “If I could convince them to spend four month’s money on singing lessons, I think there’s half a chance I could be good enough.”
Convince them he did, and he certainly didn’t look or sound out of place at the rehearsal showcase. In fact, it would have been a tough run competition between Hound and Bond to crown the happiest person in the room.
That accolade, however, clearly went to director Mitchell, who proclaimed that Jerry Mitchell Productions, his new collaboration with Ambassador Theatre Group, which was founded to create new musical theatre work for the West End, was “the greatest opportunity of my entire life”.