BWW Review: National Tour Of A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Glistens With Sharp-Witted Hilarity At The Tulsa Performing Arts Center
This 2014 Tony-winner for Best Musical is still fresh and intoxicating years later. Crisp direction, superb musicianship, and pitch-perfect performances ensure an engrossing evening of delightful English Music-Hall operetta mixed with the fierce satire of a modern theatre piece.
Based on the novel by Roy Horniman, authors Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak have buffed and polished this story to bring out each and every effervescent moment. Packed with winsome songs and rapid-fire dialogue filled with one-liners, the creators establish a pace which never slows, yet Peggy Hickey's direction (recreating her choreography from the original Broadway production while adding her own spin to Darko Tresnjak's original direction) never rushes anyone, brining the audience along for every joke and sight-gag. Each of her minutely choreographed tips of the head or gestures of the hand is implemented by the company with precision timing...quite necessary in a comedy of this old-school style - but Hickey always ensures the performances ground the zaniness, never branching into caricature.
The titular "gentleman" in question, Monty Navarro, is portrayed here by Blake Price. Monty is made aware that he could be the heir to an earldom - and the fortune that goes with it - if only there weren't a few pesky cousins in his way. This "gentleman" has his work cut out for him in the "murder" department, and the hilarity ensues. Such debauchery is not usually something audiences tend to cheer for, but Price perfectly straddles the line between charmingly awkward and devastatingly handsome in each encounter with a new relative to rub out. His ringing tenor is especially showcased in "Foolish To Think" and "Sibella," while his comic prowess gets many chances to shine in "Poison In My Pocket" and "Stop! What! What?!"
Bringing the "love" of the title to the table are Monty's romantic interests Sibella and Phoebe. Colleen McLaughlin's Sibella was enchanting: at first petty and spoiled, each note and pose was perfectly posed and milked to perfection in "I Don't Know What I'd Do," yet later McLaughlin brought out the humanity of the character during her scenework in the second act. Phoebe - usually portrayed by Erin McIntyre, was played by understudy Mia Fitzgibbon the evening I was in attendance. One never would have assumed Fitzgibbon was an understudy ... she transformed what could easily become a fluffy ingenue role into a fully dimensional woman of her time, anchored with wit and intelligence. Her coloratura sparkled in "Inside Out" and her trio alongside Price and McLaughlin, "I've Decided To Marry You," provided the absolute comedic highlight of an evening filled with extraordinary moments.
Another understudy stepping in for a major role, Conor McGiffin portrayed the role(s) of the D'Ysquith Family, stepping in for James Taylor Odom. As the constant foil in Monty's plan to ascension, McGiffin brought his buttery-smooth voice (especially in "The Last One You'd Expect") and wonderfully ludicrous impressionisms to each member of the D'Ysquith family. Complete with a barrage of costume changes, the challenges of the turn-on-a-dime nature of the role appeared entirely effortless in the hands of McGiffin - particular highlights include "Better With A Man" and "Lady Hyacinth Abroad" ...simply stunning!
And certainly not to go without mention is the hard-working ensemble: Kristin Kane, Colleen Gallagher, Briana Gantsweg, Ashton Michael Corey, Timothy Aaron Cooper, and Riley McFarland (a swing who was performing the show I saw) each brought distinct personalities to their respective characters, yet never stole focus...always contributing to the story-at-large.
The technical elements were all top-notch. Alexander Dodge's set - centered by a large LED screen featuring Aaron Rhyne's lovely projections - made the large auditorium and stage feel cozy, filled with intricate detail. Philip S. Rosenberg's lighting and Dan Moses Schreier's sound tied the whole evening together, while Charles G. LaPointe's wigs and Linda Cho's costumes brought renewed life to each of the characters. The beautiful music, conducted by Josh Cullen, brought out such intricacies with a surprisingly small orchestra one would've assumed was double their size, given the fervor with which they played.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER earns its stripes as the Best Musical of its year, and if you are presented with the opportunity to experience the zaniness and delight it has to offer, that is an opportunity not to be missed.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER presented at the Tulsa Performing Art Center January 23 - 28, 2018. For tickets and show information, visit www.gentlemansguideontour.com