BWW Review: You'll Love Much More than the Murder in Vintage's GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE
It opens with a warning: if you're of a "weaker constitution," you'd best depart before the story starts, or at least avoid the first couple rows. You should probably just ignore that, because then you'd miss out on some killer theatre. Literally.
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder is essentially just that. The first act is mainly about murder, and the second act is a bit more focused on the love part.
Based on Roy Horniman's 1907 novel "Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal," the show opens with Monty Navarro (Andy Seracuse, who brings youthful spark to the part, along with elegant vocals) penning his memoir in a diary via jail cell. He's awaiting the verdict of his execution, and if he's charged for murder, he wants to leave something honest behind about who he killed and how...and why. Flashback a couple years to where it all started, when Monty discovers his dead mother is linked to the royal D'Ysquith family, and he's only 8 relatives away from becoming an earl. Therefore, he must kill them all and claim his throne. (Male and female, they're all played masterfully by Brandon Bill, who chameleons his way through the show so well you forget he's just one actor.) That's the murder part.
The love part comes in with the gorgeous yet malicious Sibella (Anne Jenness), who's been leading Monty on, and only becomes more interested when she hears of Monty's new legacy. Later there's Phoebe (Katie Jackson), Monty's distant D'Ysquith cousin, who's on the sweeter side. Of course, Monty just can't make up him mind. And it's clear to see why-both actresses have magnificent voices and provide some of the best performances of the cast, notably the trio's dynamic "I've Decided to Marry You."
Directed by Bernie Cardell, a fantastic ensemble takes care of the brunt of the show's scene work. From living portraits to bizarre choruses of townsfolk, their vibrant expressions and eccentricities make the show truly work the way it should. Along with one of the smarter set designs (by Ryan Walkoviak) I've seen on the Vintage stage and extravagant costumes by Susan Rahmsdorff-Terry, this show is just as much of a visual treat.
While a couple of the murders could have been staged a little smarter, Gentleman's Guide was handled with just the right level of camp. It's one of those musicals that seems to fit in a category of its own, and definitely one that shouldn't be overlooked.
A Gentlemen's Guide to Love & Murder plays Vintage Theatre through March 24. Tickets at VintageTheatre.org.