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Pennaz shows a new side in 'Scoundrels'


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POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2009

On rare occasions, an actor steps outside the characters he's known for playing and delivers a winning performance in a different type of role. Matt Pennaz is doing that in “;Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”; at Diamond Head Theatre, and it is an amazing piece of work.

               

     

 

'DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS'

        » Place: Diamond Head Theatre
       

» When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday

       

» Cost: $12 to $42 (discounts available); all seats reserved

       

» Call: 9733-0274 or visit www.diamondheadtheatre.com

       

 

       

“;Scoundrels”; director Rob Duval must have looked beyond Pennaz's past credits in romantic or “;nice guy”; roles, casting him as cocky hustler Freddy Benson.

“;Geek”;—in its original pejorative sense—is almost too kind a term for Freddy when he first appears. As “;made-over”; for the role by Morgan Lane-Tanner (costumes) and Jess Aki (makeup and hair design), Pennaz is almost unrecognizable. It is an amazing transformation and the beginning of a superb performance.

Watch Pennaz in later scenes when Freddy is pretending to be suffering from a psychological condition that has left him without feeling from the waist down. Freddy's rival in trying to wrangle $50,000 from a mark is pretending to be an Austrian therapist and utilizes ever-more violent techniques on Freddy in trying to “;restore”; the feelings in his legs. Pennaz's performance is subtle and effective.

But “;Scoundrels”; is by no means a one-man show. Tony Young quickly wins our allegiance as wealthy and refined Lawrence Jameson, a sophisticated con artist who swindles wealthy women by presenting himself as a gallant, impoverished exiled prince/freedom fighter from a small and distant nation. There's a sense, however, that Lawrence is almost as much a gigolo as a con man. In one early number, women he has wooed, won and defrauded recall his romantic finesse.

Young channels a bit of his Frank N. Furter persona from last year's “;Rocky Horror Show”; in playing the con man/Austrian doctor, but he also gives the show its heart, much of its charm, and a character the audience can embrace and root for.

Daniel James Kunkel (Andre) slips smoothly into the major supporting role of Lawrence's friend and confidante. “;Chimp in a Suit”; is a great early showcase number for him. “;Like 'Zis, Like 'Zat”; gives Kunkel more well-deserved time in the limelight in Act II.

Yvonne Iversen (Muriel), known here in the '90s as Yvonne Filius, makes a great return to the local stage in a role that utilizes not only her voice but also her talent as a comedienne. She and Kunkel turn out to be well-matched as the show's comic lovers.

Tricia Marciel (Christine Colgate) plays “;innocent”; quite convincingly as the show's female lead. Marciel's voice helps make “;Here I Am”; and “;Nothing Is too Wonderful to be True”; two big numbers in Act I. Her two duets with Pennaz—“;Love Is My Legs”; and “;Above the Waist/Nothing Is too Wonderful (Reprise)”;—are among the comic highlights in Act II.

Choreographer Christine Yasunaga's male dancers also earned a show-stopping round of applause after a particularly spectacular number in Act I.

Over and above the performances of the core cast, DHT's “;Scoundrels”; is a delightful contemporary musical comedy. Jokes about the French, witty one-liners, and several references to Broadway musicals that anyone in the audience will understand add comic spice to the action.