BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER at Gateway Theatre
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Book and Lyrics by Robert I. Freedman
Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak
Based on a novel by Roy Horniman
Directed by Daren A. C. Carollo
Treachery, greed, manipulation and murder is never as appealing and hilarious as in 42nd Street Moon's wonderful production on 2014's Tony Award-winning Best Musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. Director Daren A. C. Carollo combines all the right elements in this sparkling farce; a superb ensemble cast, great scenic, lighting and costume design and wonderful musical direction by Co- Artistic Director Daniel Thomas.
Adapted from Hornimans' absurd novel which spawned the 1949 Alec Guinness film "Kind Hearts and Coronets", the show mixes an Edwardian satire on manners with a music hall score full of witty lyrics. It provides a field day for actor Matt Hammons, playing the eight wacky members of the D'Ysquith Family doomed to die throughout the show. The charming tenor Kevin Singer shines as Montague Navarro, the distant heir who desperately covets the title and fortune he feels is owed him.
Opening with the black-clad mourners entreating the audience with 'weaker constitutions' to leave ("Prologue: A Warning to the Audience"), the number sets the tongue in cheek nature of the score. Working backwards, the story opens with Lord Montague "Monty" D'Ysquith Navarro, Ninth Earl of Highhurst, in jail for murder. Writing his memoir, the story unfolds as a flashback from his meager beginnings as the son of a late washerwoman, whom he discovers was disowned and disinherited from the D'Ysquith's for marrying a Spanish musician below her station.
Monty becomes fixated on becoming Earl, both to avenge his mother and to woo his lover Sibella, (Christine Capsuto-Shulman) who won't marry him due to his poverty. Visiting the ancestral D'Ysquith manor, the portraits come to life to warn Monty against pursuing his destiny ("A Warning to Monty"), while the current Earl admonishes the commoners flooding his home in "I Don't Understand the Poor". Monty falls for his distant cousin Miss Phoebe (Melissa WolfKlain) and worms himself into the family business working his way up to second fiddle.
Matt Hammons is fantastic as the dying D'Ysquith's, both male and female with a comic performance that almost steals the show. WolfKlain and Casputo-Schulman works their roles with skill and charm as the rivals for Monty's love. The fine ensemble cast includes: Teressa Foss ("Miss Shingle"/Ensemble), Lee Ann Payne ("Lady Eugenia"/Ensemble), Noel Anthony Escobar (Ensemble), Nick Nakashima (Ensemble), Sean Fenton (Ensemble), Amanda Johnson ("Miss Barley"/Ensemble), Nicole Helfer (Ensemble) and Hayley Lovgren (Ensemble).
Scenic Designer Mark Mendelson's stately wooden walled manor set includes talking portraits and slide in/slide out furniture. Lit beautifully by lighting designer Claudio Silva Restrepo, authentic period costumes by Rebecca Valentino and smart choreography by Christina Lazo, the production is light, witty and impeccably directed and acted.It's a joy when script, score, acting, direction and technical crews come together in a seemingly effortless collaboration. A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder is a highlight of 42nd Street Moon's 2019-2020 season.
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder continues through March 15, 2020 at Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. Tickets available at http://www.42ndstmoon.org or by calling (415) 255-8207.
Photos by Ben Krantz Studio.