BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE at Porchlight Music Theatre
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER, in its local debut now at Porchlight Music Theatre, is a devilish musical theater delight. Porchlight's staging is all the more delectable with veteran musical theater actor Matt Crowle leading the way-in eight distinct roles.
Robert L. Freedman and Stephen Lutvak's amusing and original 2014 Tony Award-winning musical focuses on Monty Navarro (André Enriquez), an impoverished young man living in Edwardian England who discovers he is a member of the wealthy D'Ysquith family. Only eight family members stand in the way between Monty and his spot as Earl of Highhurst Castle. The catch? Monty must off them all to rightfully claim the title and privilege the D'Ysquiths have long deprived him. The other catch? The same actor (in this case Crowle) portrays all the pesky family members standing in the way. And while Monty takes care of family business, he also finds himself in a love triangle between the rapturous Sibella Hayward (Emily Goldberg) and his cousin Phoebe D'Ysquith (Ann Delaney). Luckily, the latter doesn't precede Monty on the way to inherit Highhurst Castle.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE is a magnificent musical whirlwind, pulling the best elements of farce without being too overbearing. Set designer Angie Miller has designed a simple, period-perfect space that allows the actors to navigate between a number of locations. Jeff Hendry's costume designs deck out the ensemble in over-the-top Edwardian garb that suits the musical's outsized nature.
Director and choreographer Stephen Schellhardt mines A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE for every moment of humor, both spoken and physical, and the ensemble gamely rise to the challenge. Enriquez has a decidedly sinister take on Monty; his Monty knows the game from the start and doesn't have an ounce of timidity about taking on the D'Ysquiths. He doesn't so much as fall into this revenge plot as embrace it wholeheartedly; it's a darker approach to the role than I've seen in the past, and Enriquez also conveys that tone in his commendable vocals. Goldberg gives an astounding vocal performance as Sibella, and her acting choices are punchy and endlessly entertaining. Delaney also displays formidable vocal chops as Phoebe. And when Goldberg and Delaney sing alongside Enriquez in the farcical Act Two number "I've Decided to Marry You," it's easy to tell that all these actors have killer vocals (pun intended). The ensemble as a whole doesn't miss a beat.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE owes much of its humor and entertaining strength, though, to the gentleman who plays all the D'Ysquiths. Crowle wins the day here. He's positively elastic, both in terms of facial and body expressions, and he easily slides from one character to another; sometimes within a matter of seconds. Crowle is an expert at physical humor, and A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE quite literally allows him to wear many hats. He sings and dances his way through his portrayals of all the family members, and he's dynamite at every turn. Though the D'Ysquiths may be felled one by one in A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE, nothing can stop Crowle from stealing the show.
Porchlight Music Theatre's A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER runs through March 16 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 North Dearborn. Tickets are $39-$66. Visit PorchlightMusicTheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Michael Courier