Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
The musical, which won the 2014 Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Musical, tells the story of Monty Navarro (an outstanding Tyler Graeper in an incredible Raleigh Little Theatre debut), who discovers upon his mother's passing that she was an estranged member of the wealthy D'Ysquith lineage, which means that he, too, is a distant heir to the D'Ysquith family fortune. Monty sets out to speed up his succession, using his wit, charm and creativity to knock off the D'Ysquiths who stand in his way. From exasperation to surprise, Graeper's facial expressions alone are worth the cost of admission, but he has a beautiful and controlled voice to boot.
As his love interest Sibella, local favorite Lauren Knott exhibits star quality yet again; I certainly look forward to future performances of Mr. Graeper and Ms. Knott on area stages. Lauren Bamford's Phoebe (Monty's distant cousin) is just as lovely to look at and to hear; her soaring soprano is simply amazing.
One of the many brilliant devices of this show is that all of those unfortunate D'Ysquiths are portrayed by one actor, and in this production that task falls to Brian Westbrook, who rises to the occasion with attentive hilarity. Westbrook is the true highlight; his comedic timing is a tour de force. I cannot imagine the difficulty his rapid costume changes must present. The entire supporting cast, a lean group all playing multiple roles, are truly spectacular.
Robert L. Freedman's witty and funny book and the beautifully intricate score by Steven Lutvak (co-lyricist with Mr. Freedman) add up to one of the best new shows in the past decade. The melodies call to mind both the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and the more contemporary score of The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Rupert Holmes.
Director Patrick Torres has taken the excellent source material and made a production worth a murder or twoor seven. Jenny Mitchell's scenic design is both elegantly simple and cleverly complex. Tyler Elrod's projections skillfully distinguish among the numerous locations in the plot. Costume design from Jenny Mitchell further develops each character with color and detail, and special recognition goes to Ms. Mitchell for also managing Mr. Westbrook's many quick changes, an amazing feat in itself.
This rollicking but masterfully crafted musical is a strong rebuttal to some of the recent frivolous and jukebox submissions to the category. A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder has more fun getting away with murder than should be legal.
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, through through September 1, 2019, at Raleigh Little Theatre, Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh NC. Tickets can be purchased online at www.raleighlittletheatre.org by phone at 919-821-3111.
Book and Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman