- Jenifer Foote and Tom Hewitt in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels -- Set on the French Riviera and based on the 1988 movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, Scoundrels follows continental conman Lawrence and American grifter Freddy, who meet on a train and sense a common bond: the love of cadging money out of rich women. They challenge each other to a con-game duel, wherein the loser must leave the Riviera. Unfortunately, the material -- written by Jeffrey Lane (book) and David Yazbek (music and lyrics) -- dawdles insufferably before getting around to the mano-a-mano stuff. A long digression involves Lawrence's pursuit of Jolene, an over-the-top diva played without an ounce of subtlety by Jenifer Foote. A lame romance between Andre (Lawrence's right-hand man) and the rich Muriel Eubanks, played by Hollis Resnik, also gums things up. Once Freddy and Lawrence train their sights on American soap heiress Christine Colgate -- the object of their challenge bet -- the production builds some steam. Tom Hewitt, with silver-fox good looks and a rich baritone voice, is suitably oleaginous as Lawrence. And Laura Marie Duncan, as Christine, makes a convincing mistaken millionaire. The show builds to a delightfully larcenous conclusion. Directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, Scoundrels is a flashy, paper-thin theatrical con you don't mind falling for. Through June 24 at the Palace Theatre, 1518 Euclid Avenue, 216-241-6000. -- Christine Howey
Pump Boys and Dinettes -- This loose collection of faux country songs and lame redneck jokes has as much staying power as a rub-on tattoo. The musical is set on a North Carolina highway, where four mechanics lay about at a gas station and two Cupp sisters run a nearby diner. Pump can be a lot of fun when it's performed with some invention. Unfortunately, director Eric van Baars' production is a beat slow and telegraphs every move. Chris Blisset, as pump-boy captain Jim, fashions a pleasantly off-center, good ol' boy vibe. But his singing voice is merely serviceable. Ian Lowe, as Grease monkey dreamer L.M., doesn't find all the humor in the potentially show-stopping "The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine." W. James Koeth is more entertaining as lover-boy Jackson. Prudie Cupp (the sensitive one) and Rhetta Cupp (the slutty one) are played, respectively, by Laura Cook and Laura Beth Wells. Cook professionally handles her singing; Wells looks the part, but has narrow bandwidth as a singer. Overall, each character's one note is clearly struck. So if you like a composition with six notes, this may be for you. Through June 30 at Blossom Music Center's Porthouse Theatre, 1145 West Steels Corners Road in Cuyahoga Falls, 330-672-2497. -- Howey
West Side Story -- When it opened 50 years ago, West Side Story's leaping, shiv-brandishing chorus boys created quite a stir. The Sharks and the Jets are facing off again at the Carousel Dinner Theatre in a production that, while short of perfect, has enough telling moments to prevent your lasagna from backing up. Playing star-crossed Maria is Stephanie Iannarino, who applies her operatic pipes to the singing chores and crafts a spirited, spontaneous character. Her lover, Tony, is played by Nathan Scherich, a very preppy-looking young man who sings a lot better than he acts. As the Romeo and Juliet of this doomed soul match, the two leads never create the musky chemistry that is necessary. Among the prominent gang members, David Villella as head Shark Bernardo is a glowering presence; unfortunately, his counterpart Riff is given a saggy rendition by Matthew Steffens. On the distaff side of this gender-bifurcated work is Julie Kotarides, who is slim and fiery as Anita, Maria's best friend and sister of Bernardo. Of course, beyond the central love connection, West Side Story is all about the flow of the timeless music, composed by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The urgent urban score requires a cast that can dance almost nonstop. And here the Carousel players excel, delivering sharply defined dance numbers, whether they're on the stage or dashing through the aisles. Director/choreographer Marc Robin keeps the pace electric while wisely allowing certain scenes the room they need to play out. This is especially true at the end, when Robin gives the tragic denouement all the space and silence it demands to register profound loss. That concluding scene almost makes up for other lapses in the production, making this Story a flawed but still worthy marker of a wonderful show's golden anniversary. Through June 30 at the Carousel Dinner Theatre, 1275 East Waterloo Road, Akron, 1-800-362-4100, www.carouseldinnertheatre.com. -- Howey