A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
"A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder" opens at The Old Globe Theatre this month and, true to its name, these dark and treacherous themes are explored with much more civility than one might imagine.
Monty Navarro (Ken Barnett) has just lost his mother. Coming from a rather humble background he was not expecting to be left with much more than good memories of his mother and debt. That is until he learns that his mother was long down the line in succession of the D’Ysquith family fortune.
Now Monty, struggling to make ends meet and in desperate need of a good paying job, searches for his long-lost family and an opportunity to make a noble and honest living. When he finds the proverbial door slammed in his face, he decides to climb the ladder of succession the only way he knows how, by killing each and every D’Ysquith (all nine played by the immensely talented Jefferson Mays) that stands in his way.
He does this in a more gentlemanly way, of course.
Along the way he meets and subsequently falls in love with Phoebe D’Ysquith (Chilina Kennedy), his cousin, all the while subduing his long-lasting longing for Sibella Hallward (Lisa O’Hare), the flame he could never quite get his hands around.
Can Monty lay claim to the entire D’Ysquith inheritance without being caught? Will it be Sibella or Phoebe who ultimately wins his heart? And how many times do you have to kill one D’Ysquith before he or she is really dead?
It’s all in his memoirs on "A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder."
The casting of this show could not be better imagined. Barnett’s Monty Navarro is smooth, charismatic, the kind of person with whom you would wrongly trust your life. O’Hare brings an almost childlike sense to Sibella contrasted with Kennedy’s refined Phoebe, the love interests seem more like the devil and angel on Monty’s shoulder each appealing to different aspects of his personality.
The star of the show, unquestionably, is Jefferson Mays as the entire D’Ysquith line of succession. Not only were his quick changes impressive to watch but his delineation and development of each character was also a real tour de force. Every part played by Mays was perfectly polished, purposeful, and a pleasure to watch.
Darko Tresnjak, an Old Globe alum, returns to direct this Shakespearean-like musical comedy and he guides "Guide" eloquently. The book by Robert L. Freeman I felt outshined the lyrics, also by Freeman and Steven Lutvak, as well as the music (Lutvak). The numbers were fun and frolicking but nevertheless this is not a score you would find on my iPod.
Peggy Hickey’s choreography played off the theme and the actor’s talents wonderfully, even choreographing a scene of ice skating and finding a way to utilize every inch of real estate with which she had to work.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the orchestra; Mike Ruckles as music director and Jonathan Tunick as orchestrator. I always believe you can tell the quality of a musical by the quality of the orchestra and this one rounded out the production nicely.
"A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder" is a delightful romp through the early Century British caste system, bobbing and weaving through punch lines, plot twists, affairs and assassinations, eventually coming full circle and sending the audience buzzing out the door.
"A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder" runs through April 14 on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. For more info or tickets, please visit www.TheOldGlobe.org or call 619-23-GLOBE.