Monday, October 19, 2009


Seeking respite from the Kanye Wests, Serena Williams, Joe Wilsons and Glenn Becks of the world, Aisle Say traveled to The Walnut Theatre this week, the oldest continuing running theatrical venue in America.

The Walnut produces Broadway quality shows that are often higher quality than touring shows. This “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” delights -- and does not take itself nearly as seriously as the aforementioned scoundrels.

Walnut Street Theatre presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Through Oct. 25

$10 - $70


Two shameless con-men, (Ben Dibble and Paul Schoeffler) have very different styles. They take a winner-take-all wager over the fortunes of a naïve American soap heiress (Jessica Rush). The first one to "clean her out" can make the other clear out and keep the French Riviera and its unsuspecting tourists to himself.

Dibble's Freddie Benson channels his inner Stan Laurel in some of the most hysterical sight gags Aisle Say has enjoyed. His malleable face and physicality had the audience doubling over.

Schoeffler's Lawrence Jameson was the elegant and suave grifter. In one scene, he donned the mantle of a German psychiatrist and sang “Ruffhousin Mit Shufhausen” with the finely honed accent – quite an accomplishment.

At the helm as director and choreographer is Richard Stafford. The music pulls from a variety of genres, similar to “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Production values at The Walnut are consistently superior. The sets, the costumes and lighting are superb. The female dancing chorus was talented and, to these eyes, the most beautiful array of chorines in the region.

Arts supporters, be vigilant

Continuing the "scoundrel" theme, Aisle Say must make mention of the 11th hour slight of hand by the Pennsylvania legislature to clinch a budget deal. In the end, the agreement hinged on a ticket tax on museum, concert, dance and theatre tickets.

What's that you ask about sports and movie tickets? Oh, they remain untouched.

The announcement came a day after the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra pleaded to the public to cover a $15 million shortfall.

Ironic juxtaposition. One of the most vulnerable – yet most vital – sectors of society is dealt another blow. This is a significant tax that hits arts organizations squarely in the gut. Cultural venues had already lost significant state and local funding. This additional tax will further depress the sector.

The Walnut Theatre, for example, now has a budget deficit. It generates $10 million in ticket sales annually. The sales tax would amount to $700,000, and Walnut President Bernard Havard said it would mean all educational programming will be eliminated, and called the move retrograde and destructive.

This news is important for Delawareans to know. We cannot allow our own legislators to even consider such shenanigans.

WHYY watch?

Aisle Say was the first to report on the outrageous salary of WHYY's CEO. This information came on the heels of the decision to close the Wilmington studios. WHYY now has a weekly news review at 10 p.m. Fridays, just when everyone wants to sit down and watch a rehash of week-old news.

Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf told me that “he raised hell about this man's money when he was on the Joint Finance Committee.” The $500,000 Grant in Aid WHYY received last year has thankfully been reduced to $100,000.

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