Those Dirty Rotten Scoundrels are on their way to Liverpool – and their arrival on July 7 will be something like a homecoming.
Because it turns out the idea for the show was hatched not a million miles away from the Empire Theatre.
“I did Legally Blonde with ATG,” explains director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell of his links with the theatre group which owns the Lime Street venue.
“And when we were putting together the tour of Legally Blonde, Howard (ATG boss Howard Panter) and I were in Liverpool, and he asked me ‘what show do you want to do next?’
“I said ‘Howard, why don’t you start a company to produce musicals? You’ve got 37 theatres.’
“Liverpool – in Hope Street. That’s where it all started.”
The result was the formation of Jerry Mitchell Productions. And its first production is the stage version of the 1980s comedy caper which starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin.
The show had a successful London run with Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound as the two competing conmen on the French Riviera.
Now it’s on its inaugural UK tour with Michael Praed and Hear’Say’s Noel Sullivan in the leading roles, joined by Hollyoaks’ Carley Stenson and by Mark Benton.
“I’m excited for the tour to go out,” says Jerry during a break from rehearsals for his new Broadway show (On Your Feet, about the life of Gloria and Emilio Estefan).
“It’s such a fun show, people really love it, they respond to it, they have a great time. It’s a very funny musical.”
Jerry did his first production of ‘Dirty Rotten’, as he calls it, on Broadway almost a decade ago with John Lithgow, and later Everyman alumnus Jonathan Pryce.
In fact, you may not immediately recognise his name, but if you’re a regular at the Empire then you’re likely to have seen some of the choreographer/director’s work.
Aside from Legally Blonde for example, he’s also the man behind Hairspray.
And his CV also features The Full Monty, La Cage aux Folles, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Love Never Dies, while two years ago he won a coveted Tony Award for the hugely successful Kinky Boots.
It’s not bad for a boy from Paw Paw, Michigan, who began performing as an eight-year-old in his local community theatre.
“The Village Players allowed me, even as a 13 or 14-year-old, to direct and choreograph my own shows,” Jerry recalls. “Who gets that opportunity when they’re a kid, you know?
“I was very fortunate. And it was a small town and there weren’t that many people involved, so I worked on every show they did. I just pretty much lived at that theatre.”
He’s not tempted to appear in his own shows these days, however – although he admits he knows every role.
Jerry laughs: “The truth of the matter is that every single show I do, I get up and perform every part to everybody! They always tease me because I have this phrase in rehearsal.
“I always say ‘let me be you for a second, let me be you’. And I step in and do it the way I think it should be done. I guess that’s the choreographer in me coming out.”
There’s no one, he maintains, who can’t be taught to dance – and he prefers “actors who move as opposed to great, great dancers” in many of the main storytelling roles. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels appears to be a healthy mix of both.
Jerry has worked before with Carley Stenson, who played Elle Wood in Legally Blonde, and Mark Benton, who was his Edna in Hairspray.
Then there’s the young ensemble.
“They’re really great dancers because they’re taking on a sort of elegance, which is done through movement and choreography, so they have to have real line and class and style.”
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is at the Liverpool Empire from July 7-18.