Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
This was my first viewing of the musical and I believe it would be hard to find a more beautifully directed, acted and sung production. What a crystalline, charming, and totally enchanting piece of theatre this, indeed, proves to be.
Upon entering the theatre, one is greeted by the magnificent set design of Alexander Dodge. What looks like it will be a "penny dreadful" set turns out to be the equivalent of a turn of the (20th) century British music hall stage upon which the entire play is acted. Essentially a proscenium inside of a proscenium, it is gorgeous to look at and has a personality all its own, due to the brilliant lighting design of Philip S. Rosenberg and the projection designs of Aaron Rhyne.
The tale of a man who finds he is, essentially, ninth in line for an earlship, young Mr. Montague "Monty" Navarro is a D'Ysquith and of royal blood. His mother married a Castilian, who was worse yet a musician, and Monty avenges the death of his mother by climbing up the ladder of British success death by hilarious death. Eight in total. One might think this could get tedious, but the audience was joyously cheering as each member of the potential royals was dispatched with hilarity and grace.
The two key roles are the domain of Blake Price, as Monty, and James Taylor Odom, who plays all eight members of the D'Ysquith (say it fast: "Dies quick") family. While the tour has been on the road for several months, the joy of the two leads and their eight castmates is as fresh as one could wish for.
One of the reasons to adore this show has to be the uniqueness of the music (score by Steven Lutvak) and the story (book by Robert L. Freedman, based on a novel by Roy Horniman).
At the curtain call I saw that there is, indeed, "only" a cast of 10. They play over 30 roles, and the aplomb with which they take on multiple characters is astounding. Take Colleen McLaughlin, who plays one of the two female leads, Sibella Hayward, a golden-throated British songbird. In act two I had no idea that she was doubling as the hatchet faced (and voiced!) Lady Eugenia. The other featured female, Erin McIntyre, playing Phoebe, is a riot, unable to make up her mind as to who to marry. And that voice! This leads to the showstopper, "I've Decided to Marry You," with both women and Price's Monty. Truth be told, when I saw the number on the Tony Awards show, I wondered "is that all there is?" But some numbers do not work well out of context and, wow, this is one of them. It brought the house down.
Lutvak's score has lovely melodies, clever, sophisticated, funny lyrics, and every word is well received due to the wonderful sound design of Dan Moses Schreier. As brilliantly directed and choreographed by Peggy Hickey, after the original direction of Darko Tresnjak on Broadway, one marvels at the speed and alacrity of everyone involved in the production. A non-union tour with actors who all do superb British accents and have magnificent singing voices and move like ballet dancers"Who could ask for anything more?"
I, for one, will be returning. It's that delicious.
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, through Sunday, January 21, 2018, at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5 Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale FL. For tickets and information, call 954-462-0222 or visit www.browardcenter.org. For more information on the tour, visit gentlemansguideontour.com.