BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER at South Bay Musical Theatre
As the show opens we find Montague "Monty" Navarro (David Mister) lamenting the loss of his recently departed mother. Unexpectedly, he is visited by an old friend of his mother's, the well informed Miss Shingle (Ruth E. Stein) who tells him that he's related to the aristocratic D'Ysquith (sounds like...Dies quith) family. Indeed, he is 8th in line to the Earl of Highhurst.
Monty rushes to tell Sibella (Jillian Bader), the girl he loves, the good news. However before he get's it out she tells him that as much as she can't do without him, she's going to marry another man (one that has a motorcar).
Monty, eager to meet the family, makes a visit to Highhurst, but ends up on the guest tour. It seems Monty's mother was banished after taking his Castilian father as her husband. As Monty begins scheming of ways he can get back in good graces, we learn more about the heirs and their arrogant (and politically incorrect) ways.
The rebuffed Monty seeks the counsel of Reverend Lord Ezekiel D'Ysquith who, as they talk, takes him to the top of the bell tower. Monty and his clergy cousin converse and take in the view when the Reverend loses his balance and looks to Monty for help. In the split second it takes Monty to consider (primarily his step up the family ladder) the Reverend falls to his death and Monty feels one step closer to the girl of his dreams, Sibella.
Monty meets one after another of his latent relatives who just as quickly seem to meet their demise. However, amid the dying family tree springs Phoebe D'Ysquith (Kate Matheson) a distant cousin (not in the line of succession) who takes a quick and romantic liking to Monty.
A true love triangle blossoms amid the building chaos as the community begins to wonder "Why are all the D'Ysquiths Dying?" Who will get the guy? Is there a serial killer on the loose?
The SBMT production, directed by Walter M. Mayes, is grand with glorious set designs and a seemingly endless abundance of beautiful period costumes. The careful consideration of color makes the story and characters seem all the more striking with creative contrast. The cast of players is vocally strong under the direction of conductor Dan Singletary and the orchestra is as professional sounding as it gets. The strong ensemble (Players) craft some great roles within the well choreographed (thanks to Jennifer C. Maggio) staging.
David Mister plays Monty and definitely has fun with the role. He covers the demanding vocals with lyrical musicality and energetically bounds from one dramatic scene to the next. He is at his best in "I've Decided to Marry You" as he cavorts from one door to another, leaving the audience as breathless as he is.
Michael Paul Hirsch (the D'Ysquith's) seems the master of disguise and the grand master of comic timing. Hirsch drives the comedy through this fast paced show with the skill of a vintage motorcar racer. Without giving too much away, Hirsch definitely knows how to make his characters work the audience as he belts out some great notes of his own.
Jillian Bader (as Sibella) & Kate Matheson (as Phoebe) are a dynamic duo, the likes of which are not often seen on stage together, let alone in a community production. Their vocals were as spot on as a well produced Broadway soundtrack album. And, both moved on stage like seasoned actresses well beyond their combined years. Bader works her beguiling blonde locks as well as she works her men. The audience grows to love her so quickly they hardly flinch at the naughty things she does. Matheson's refined character is so graceful and lovely the audience can't help but root for her to get the guy. Hearing these two perform in duet is worth the price of the ticket (and an extra donation for future productions).
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder premiers this weekend at the South Bay Musical Theatre (SBMT) in Saratoga. The 2014 Tony Award winner for best musical with book and Lyrics by Robert L Freedman & Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak, is based on the novel Israel Rank by Roy Horniman.
The satirical musical comedy runs through Oct. 19, 2019 SBMT performs at the Saratoga Civic Theater, 13777 Fruitvale Ave, Saratoga, CA. For more information about the show and tickets contact SouthBayMT.com or call 408-266-4734.
Photo's courtesy of SBMT