BWW Review: Virginia Repertory Theatre's A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is a Bloody Good Time!
Virginia Repertory Theatre just opened its 2019-2020 season with the Tony-Award-winning A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER. Patrons should not be fooled by its title. Wherewith a darker musical massacre, Sweeney Todd, there was gore and the macabre; this sidesplitting bloodbath is perfectly appropriate for most audiences. Propelled by a first-rate cast, MURDER has never been so clever and entertaining.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE is modern in that it was penned in the new millennium. However, its astute book by Robert L. Freedman and inspired score by Steven Lutvak are anything but. The show returns to theatregoers what seems to have been missing from the contemporary Broadway canon-a classic musical that pairs threads of melody with sharp and witty turns of phrase.
In 1907 London, a penniless clerk, Monty Navarro (Alexander Sapp), learns he is ninth in line to inherit the wealth and territory from the Earl of Highhurst-a lot that is chiefly controlled by the wealthy D'Ysquith Family (all of whom are played by Scott Wichmann). Monty is in love with the pretentious Sibella Hallward (Grey Garrett), who only wants riches that Monty can't provide. That is, until members of the D'Ysquith family start dying in hilarious natural and unnatural ways, making way for Monty.
Under Kikau Alvaro's superb direction, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE at Virginia Repertory Theatre matches and sometimes manages to surpass the original Broadway production. The orchestra and ensemble, at the very capable hands of Sandy Dacus, are airtight. Chris Raintree's scenic design is simple yet functional and uses the space well. Sue Grifffin's costumes are brilliant-the design for the D'Ysquith family is chockfull of whimsy. BJ Wilkinson's lighting is striking.
Oozing with underdog charm, a charismatic and humorous Alexander Sapp is exceptional as Monty Navarro. His spry turn in "I've Decided to Marry You" is one of the show's many highpoints. Debra Wagoner is a tremendous comic talent, comfortably in her element as Marietta Shingle. Grey Garrett is in excellent voice and is perfectly vain as Sibella. Lauren Leinhaas-Cook is biting as Lady Eugenia. Each member of the ensemble is given moments to shine throughout the production.
While the 2019 Artsie's haven't even been meted out yet, this reviewer feels confident that Scott Wichmann is a lock for the 2020 "Best Actor in a Musical" award. From the frail Reverend Lord Ezekiel D'Ysquith or the flamboyant Henry D'Ysquith ("It's Better With a Man") to the hilarious, cross-eyed Lady Salome D'Ysquith Pumphrey, Wichmann's chameleon-like performance, shapeshifting, sometimes within seconds, into members of the D'Ysquith family (aided by quick change magicians), each with distinct characteristics, is truly masterful. Richmond audiences are privileged to have the opportunity to see such a crackerjack enactment in this production.
A near-perfect production that truly slays, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is a BroadwayWorld critic's pick and is not to be missed. Due to some innuendo, this show is not recommended for young children.